Leipzig solidified their bid to secure Champions League football with a four-game unbeaten league run towards the end of 2023 (W3, D1), moving six points clear of fifth-placed Borussia Dortmund.
However, Marco Rose’s team experienced a false start to the new calendar year, slumping to a narrow 1-0 home loss to Eintracht Frankfurt despite making 26 attempts and generating a stunning 3.07 xG.
Although losing to a side they had defeated in back-to-back competitive duels beforehand wasn’t enough to see them drop out of the top four, another debacle could demote them to fifth.
Dortmund must hold up their end of the bargain first and overcome second-from-bottom Koln earlier in the day, which would intensify pressure on Leipzig to get a result against Leverkusen.
The Bundesliga leaders squeaked past Augsburg in their opening 2024 league fixture as Exequiel Palacios’ 94th-minute winner sealed their last-gasp 1-0 triumph at the WWK Arena.
Four points clear of second-placed Bayern Munich, who have a game in hand, Xabi Alonso’s side took their points haul to 45 after 17 matches last weekend, a tally only bettered three times in Bundesliga history.
But with standout forward Victor Boniface injured until April, it’s no time to get complacent, although an unbeaten top-flight start (W14, D3) makes it difficult for Die Werkself to keep their feet on the ground.
Frankfurt’s resilient defensive performance, aided by Lady Luck’s gentle touch, knocked Leipzig down from an emphatic four-game winning league streak on home turf.
While Rose’s outfit failed to get on the scoresheet in home Bundesliga action for the first time since a scoreless draw against Bochum in October, another matchday without a clean sheet raised the alarm.
Not only have Die Rotten Bullen conceded in their last five top-flight games at the Red Bull Arena, but their only three home clean sheets in 2023/24 came against sides from the bottom half of the table.
However, confidence comes from Leipzig’s astounding spell of form in home clashes against Leverkusen, which has seen them win three of the last five league encounters they’ve hosted (D1, L1).
Die Werkself’s barren run at the Red Bull Arena won’t faze the division’s most formidable travellers after the abovementioned win at Augsburg marked their sixth triumph on eight league trips this term (D2).
Although only Bayern’s tally of 19 away goals trumps Leverkusen’s record of 18, they have a rock-solid backline to thank for their outstanding form on the road.
As the only Bundesliga side to concede single-digit figures away from home in 2023/24 (six), Alonso’s men would be forgiven for hoping to post their first-ever top-flight clean sheet in Leipzig’s backyard.
Even if they don’t, Leverkusen should still have plenty of firepower to outscore their hosts, as was the case in a goal-glutted 3-2 victory on the opening weekend.
In addition to captain Willi Orban, who’s been on the sidelines for months with a knee injury, Leipzig will be without Africa Cup of Nations participant Amadou Haidara.
But the rest of the team is fit and ready.
As for Leverkusen, the most prominent international tournament in Africa has stripped them of the services of Edmond Tapsoba, Odilon Kossonunou and Amine Adli.
Their absence, compounded by Boniface’s injury, could cause Alonso a selection nightmare on Saturday.
RB Leipzig potential starting line-up:
(4-4-2): Janis Blaswich; Benjamin Henrichs, Mohamed Simakan, Castello Lukeba, David Raum; Christoph Baumgartner, Xaver Schlager, Kevin Kampl, Xavi Simons; Lois Openda, Yussuf Poulsen.
Bayer Leverkusen potential starting line-up:
(3-4-2-1): Lukas Hradecky; Piero Hincapie, Jonathan Tah, Josip Stanisic; Jeremie Frimpong, Granit Xhaka, Exequiel Palacios, Alejandro Grimaldo; Florian Wurtz, Jonas Hofmann; Patrick Schick.
We Say: RB Leipzig 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Leipzig are among very few Bundesliga teams capable of knocking Leverkusen off their perch, especially on home turf.
However, it’s impossible not to back the only side across UEFA’s 54 top-tier championships yet to lose a match this season for another success.
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