RB Leipzig are looking to bounce back to winning ways as they welcome VfB Stuttgart at the Red Bull Arena on Sunday.
RB Leipzig’s hopes of a late title push suffered a massive blow in midweek when they fell to a narrow defeat at the hands of relegation candidates 1.FC Koln. It allowed Bayern Munich to extend their lead at the top to ten points, and with just five matches remaining, the Bundesliga title race is all but over.
Leipzig, though, still have good reasons to end the campaign on a positive as they take on VfB Stuttgart, in what will be the first of their remaining five matches in the Bundesliga. It is a must-win game for Julian Nagelsmann’s men, who are low on confidence following just one win in their last four league matches.
In Stuttgart, Nagelsmann will be facing his former assistant Pellegrino Matarazzo, who has done a tremendous job in Swabia. His young side has managed to comfortably seal their position in the mid-table, although they could have aimed higher, had it not been for a poor run of performances that sees them without a win in any of their last three matches.
Stuttgart most recently lost to VfL Wolfsburg, succumbing to a 3-1 defeat – a game where they were extremely wasteful in front of goal. They simply cannot afford to replicate that problem up against a Leipzig side, who boast the best defensive record in the league.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their enticing match-up in the Bundesliga this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Konrad #Laimer back in action?
Wir würden uns wohl alle sehr darüber freuen!
Gegen den @VfB könnte er zumindest schon mal wieder in den Kader zurückkehren.
— Die Roten Bullen (@DieRotenBullen) April 24, 2021
Nagelsmann is expected to continue with his rotation policy, meaning there could be a host of changes from the side that was defeated by Koln in midweek. Especially in the attacking unit, the Leipzig coach is likely to get rid of Emil Forsberg following his disappointing performances. It should pave the way for Dani Olmo to renew his partnership with Christopher Nkunku, just behind the main forward in Alexander Sorloth.
In midfield, Marcel Sabitzer is still a doubt after missing the Koln game due to a calf problem. However, Nagelsmann is likely to be boosted by the highly anticipated return of Konrad Laimer, with the midfielder set to make the matchday squad against Stuttgart this weekend.
While Laimer certainly won’t start, Leipzig’s limited options in midfield should ultimately force Nalgelsmann to persist with Tyler Adams and Kevin Kampl in the double-pivot, while Angelino may replace Marcel Halstenberg in the left wing-back role. In fact, both the wing-backs in Angelino and Amadou Haidara are set to play a massive role in offering creative support by whipping in crosses into the box for target man Sorloth.
They will also be expected to do the defensive work, as well, providing assistance to the backline that would welcome Willi Orban and Ibrahima Konate, despite speculations suggesting an imminent move to Liverpool for the latter. Alternatively, Nagelsmann could ponder starting Nordi Mukiele at centre-back ahead of Konate, while Peter Gulacsi remains a guaranteed starter in goal.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Konate, Upamecano, Orban; Haidara, Adams, Kampl, Angelino; Nkunku, Olmo; Sorloth
Unlike Leipzig, VfB Stuttgart are missing out on the services of a plethora of star players including Nicolas Gonzalez, Silas Wamangituka, Orel Mangala and most recently, Borna Sosa.
Gonzalez and Wamangituka’s absence have already weakened Stuttgart’s attacking prowess, with the Swabians now overly relying on the services of star striker Sasa Kalajdzic.
— VfB Stuttgart (@VfB) April 23, 2021
The Austrian international will be hoping for additional creative support from Philipp Forster and Daniel Didavi, whose set-piece prowess could be vital, especially in the absence of left wing-back Sosa.
Coach Matarazzo does have other options in the attacking department, though, including Mateo Klimowicz and the experienced Gonzalo Castro, who scored the only goal in the defeat to Wolfsburg in midweek.
The former Dortmund man is also an alternative for Naouirou Ahamada in midfield. In fact, Castro is even likely to renew his partnership with Wataru Endo in the double-pivot, with additional support from the two wing-backs in Tanguy Coulibaly and Erik Thommy.
And finally, in the defensive department, Stuttgart will be boosted by the return of Arsenal loanee Konstantinos Mavropanos, who should slot right back into the three-man backline alongside Waldemar Anton and Marc Oliver Kempf, looking to offer protection for Gregor Kobel in goal.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Kobel; Mavropanos, Anton, Kempf; Coulibaly, Endo, Castro, Thommy; Forster, Didavi; Kalajdzic
- RB Leipzig are currently three games without a victory on home soil (D2, L1), which is their longest dry spell at the Red Bull Arena all season.
- Die Roten Bullen have 61 points on the board after 30 matches, matching their club record from 2016/17. That season, their first in the top flight, they finished second in the Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich.
- Leipzig have never lost to Stuttgart in this fixture’s five-game history (W4, D1) and have won both previous meetings at home to VfB.
- Stuttgart have managed just one win from their last five on their travels (W1, D1, L3) and lost the last two away from home.
- No player in the league has won more challenges this season than Wataru Endo (428), who has 29 more successful challenges than his nearest rival.
Player to Watch
Sasa Kalajdzic will be under heavy scrutiny after producing a horrendous display against Wolfsburg in midweek. The Stuttgart striker did not only miss a clear goalscoring opportunity but also looked very wasteful in front of goal overall, despite being lucky to receive some of the scoring chances.
It wasn’t a good sign for a striker, who has just lost one of his major sources of supply in Borna Sosa, who is currently out injured. Kalajdzic will be aware of the fact that Thommy or Coulibaly won’t be able to produce those juicy crosses into the box, perhaps even less so against a solid Leipzig defence.
As such, the onus will be on him to spearhead the Stuttgart attack with even more responsibility, knowing he cannot afford to appear wasteful in a game where his team is unlikely to create too many scoring opportunities.
RB Leipzig 2-1 VfB Stuttgart
Without four of their main players, Stuttgart are not in the best of shape right now and it has been reflected in their performances. It makes Leipzig huge favourites to seal all three points, despite the fact that Die Roten Bullen themselves have looked sloppy in recent weeks. In addition, they are also set to be boosted by the return of Laimer while Sabitzer’s full fitness could be another prospect to look forward to.
We expect them to breach the Stuttgart defence on multiple occasions, although it won’t be surprising to see the opposition score at least once this weekend.