Rückrunde Preview: RB Leipzig
As the Bundesliga gets back underway this weekend, we take a look at RB Leipzig's chance of finishing in the top four this season
The shortest ever winter hiatus in German football is about to come to an end, which gives us the opportunity to profile each team's chances in the second half of the campaign as we preview them one by one.
The main focus would be on the top dogs of German football as in the likes of Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund et al.
After taking a look at Gladbach and Bayer Leverkusen's chances of making into the UEFA Champions League next season, we will profile last season's runners-up RB Leipzig in our third Rückrunde preview.
Season so far
RB Leipzig's performance this season have significantly deteriorated compared to their stunning debut season in the Bundesliga last term. They are currently fifth in the league table, with Gladbach, Hoffenheim and Eintracht breathing down their neck.
Just to take things into perspectives, the club from East Germany were second at this stage last season, with a staggering 38 points already on the board, compared to their measly 28 this season.
This season, midfield sensation Naby Keita has managed more red cards than actual goals while playmaker Emil Forsberg's statistics have also come down to earth following an unreal debut season in the Bundesliga.
Both the players are vital cogs in the Leipzig setup but have struggled to make an impact in the Bundesliga this season. Furthermore, die Roten Bullen have been heavily reliant on Austrian sensation Marcel Sabitzer. RB Leipzig have won 1.8 points per game with Sabitzer in the squad but that figure slumps to 0.9 without the Austrian.
Ralph Hasenhuttl's men are winless in their last five games all competitions and things are looking rather bleak going into the second half of the season.
Targets for the second half of the campaign
For an ambitious club like RB Leipzig, nothing less than a UEFA Champions League finish would be acceptable.
After finishing third in their Champions League group stage this season, Europa League might be their only chance to win their first silverware after gaining promotion to the top flight. However, beating Napoli in the round of 32 would be no less than a challenge for Ralph Hasenhuttl and his men.
Transfer market activity
RB Leipzig are in dire need of some January reinforcements as they currently have the shortest squad size in the Bundesliga, with just 23 players.
Midfielder Naby Keita will also be heading to Anfield at the end of this season, meaning it's imperative for die Roten Bullen to secure a replacement as soon as possible.
Leipzig have been linked with the likes of Manuel Akanji and 16-year-old Benfica wonderkid Umaro Embalo, but a move for either of those players is highly unlikely given their hefty price-tags.
Here's a look at what we think has been RB Leipzig's strongest lineup has been this season.
Few players worth looking forward to
It's probably fair to say that Peter Gulacsi has been RBL's best player this season(which probably explains how average they've been). The former Liverpool keeper was rated as the best keeper of the Hinrunde by German sports magazine Kicker while he was also given a contract extension till 2022 amidst interest from the Premier League.
Marcel Sabitzer is another young attacker who is making a name for himself in the Bundesliga this season. The Austrian International has by far been the best Leipzig attacker with four goals and seven assists. Naby Keita's form will also be crucial for the second half of the season as Leipzig look to finish the season in a strong fashion.
Things have gotten pretty scrappy for RB Leipzig in recent times, and it calls for great tenacity and quite a fight if they are to finish among the UEFA Champions League places, come the end of the season.
On a positive note, the club is trying to establish themselves as a possession-based team, which can help them in the long run. However, considering their frequent issues throughout the course of the season, finishing within in the Champions League places could be a tough ask for the Red Bull Leipzig.
They aren't expected to go far in the UEFA Europa League either, having been drawn against Italian heavyweights Napoli.