1.FC Koln will be battling for survival when they take on title challengers RB Leipzig at the RheinEnergieStadion on Tuesday.
With no European football this midweek, Bundesliga will have the opportunity to close out their fixtures early as RB Leipzig kickstart this month’s Englischewoche with a trip to RheinEnergieStadion on Tuesday, as they take on 1.FC Koln.
The past weekend was a disastrous one for Die Roten Bullen, whose goalless draw with TSG Hoffenheim, coupled with Bayern Munich’s narrow win over VfL Wolfsburg paved the way for the Bavarians to extend their lead at the top back to seven points, with just five matches remaining till the end of the season.
Leipzig, though, will still be hoping to bounce back to winning ways and end the campaign on a positive note, up against a Koln side desperate for three points.
The Billy Goats are currently one of Bundesliga’s worst-performing teams, having lost seven of their last nine matches in the league. Their most recent win came way back in early February in a derby against Gladbach.
Things have started deteriorating since, and with just 23 points on the board, securing all three points are imperative if they are to pip the likes of Arminia Bielefeld and Hertha Berlin, whose next three games have been postponed amid COVID scares.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this vital encounter in the Bundesliga this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
Koln’s newly appointed head coach Freidheim Funkel did not enjoy the best of starts when his side slumped to a 3-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 28.
One positive sign for the hosts, though, will be the return of Ondrej Duda. The former Hertha Berlin man is an integral part of Koln’s attacking department. And he will once again look to spearhead the line, with creative support from two useful crossers in Marius Wolf and Florian Kainz while the number ten Max Meyer will be hoping to add an extra bit of quality going forward.
The Billy Goats do have a strong presence in midfield in the shape of Jonas Hector and Ellyes Shkiri. However, they will be tested up against a Leipzig side that boasts one of the best creative units in the league.
Koln, therefore, need to be vigilant defensively and that is where the central defensive duo of Sebastiaan Bornaux and Rafael Czichos could be vital as they look to avoid conceding three goals this time around.
Kingsley Ehizibue and Jannes Horn are going to serve as the fullbacks for the hosts. They could play a key role in the counter-attack, as they are blessed with the pace that could cause problems for Leipzig’s marauding wing-backs.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): T.Horn; Ehizibue, Bornauw, Czichos, J.Horn; Shkiri, Hector; Wolf, Meyer, Kainz; Duda
Julian Nagelsmann will have some key tactical decisions to make heading into this game, knowing Koln would want to replicate Hoffenheim’s formula by offering very little space in the final third.
A quick squad update ahead of #KOERBL ℹ️
Both players are doubts for Tuesday.
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) April 18, 2021
The German tactician, therefore, could be tempted to recall a proper striker in Alexander Sorloth, at the expense of Emil Forsberg. The Norwegian can offer the physical and aerial presence inside the box, which means Leipzig may also opt for better crossers out wide.
While Angelino remains a guaranteed starter on the left flank, the defensive-oriented Nordi Mukiele might make way for Amadou Haidara on the right-hand side as they look to complement the two central midfielders in Kevin Kampl and Marcel Sabitzer.
Sabitzer, though, is a slight doubt heading into this game, and in the case that he is unable to start, Tyler Adams is on standby to replace the Leipzig captain in the middle of the park.
There might be one defensive change as well, in light of the tight schedule, with the injury-prone Ibrahima Konate making way for Lukas Klostermann. Willi Orban is also a candidate to be benched as Marcel Halstenberg pushes for a starting berth.
And finally, in the creative unit, Dani Olmo is once again a favourite to operate alongside Christopher Nkunku, just in behind Sorloth. Alternatively, though, Olmo could be deployed in midfield, with Forsberg coming in alongside Nkunku.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Klostermann, Upamecano, Orban; Haidara, Adams, Kampl, Angelino; Nkunku, Olmo; Sorloth
- Koln have failed to win in nine games, the longest current run in the Bundesliga. Their last victory came in the Rhine derby away at Borussia Monchengladbach (2-1) on 6 February.
- Cologne have only kept three clean sheets in the Bundesliga this season, but one of them was in December’s reverse fixture against Leipzig (0-0).
- The Leipzig scoring charts are also led by midfielders – Marcel Sabitzer (7), Emil Forsberg (6) and Christopher Nkunku (6) – while strikers Sprloth and Poulsen have five each. Forsberg has scored three goals in his six career meetings with the Billy Goats.
- Leipzig boast the Bundesliga’s best defence, having conceded just 23 goals this term. Cologne’s is the second worst after Schalke, they have shipped 53.
- Die Roten Bullen have 61 points on the board after 29 matches, matching their club record from 2016/17. That season, their first in the top flight, they finished second in the Bundesliga behind Bayern.
Player to Watch
Angelino was underwhelming, to say the least, upon his return to the starting eleven as he was gifted with a start against Hoffenheim. He could not really influence the game with his trademarks from the wider position and Julian Nagelsmann will certainly be demanding more as his side takes on struggling Koln this midweek.
This time around, Angelino could potentially find it easier to drift past Ehizibue, who often appears complacent at the back. And with the tall Sorloth likely to return to the starting eleven, the Spaniard will be offered a definite target man. It bodes well for the left-back, who has had a slightly disappointing Ruckrunde, with his progress notably getting stifled by an unfortunate injury.
1.FC Koln 0-2 RB Leipzig
1.FC Koln have a dismal record at home this season and things won’t get any better when they take on RB Leipzig this midweek. The Billygoats are already lacking confidence and though they might be able to weather the initial storm from Die Roten Bullen, they might ultimately crumble under pressure, especially up against the in-form attacking trio of Alexander Sorloth, Dani Olmo and Christopher Nkunku.