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2018-19 Bundesliga Preview: RB Leipzig

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Can the Red Bulls return to the Champions League this season?

Napoli v RB Leipzig - UEFA Europa League Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Everyone’s favorite advertisements are looking to make noise again after a step back in their second season in the Bundesliga. Leipzig will be a serious contender to return to the Champions League after just missing out last year and could very likely be jostling for position with Dortmund all season long.

With manager Ralf Rangnick stepping in while the club waits for the Julian Nagelsmann era to begin, the team is in a sort of limbo that will make this season an interesting one to watch unfold.

Last Season

Bundesliga: 6th - 53 points (15-8-11)

DFB Cup: 2nd round loss in penalties to Bayern Munich

Last season was a step back for Leipzig but they were working right on the line between success and disappointment. They found themselves on the outside of an extremely tight race for the final Champions league spot and were very unfortunate to meet Bayern Munich in the second round of the DFB cup.

A different result in one game could have been all they needed, but when given the chance to earn a spot they were run out of the stadium multiple times by the very competition they needed to prove they could beat. 4-0 and 5-2 losses to Hoffenheim and a 4-1 loss to Leverkusen are going to end any hopes of the Champions league very quickly. Games like these had a major effect on their goal differential as well, finishing ten behind Leverkusen just ahead of them in the standings.

Transfers

Transfers in:

  • Nordi Mukiele (RB) - Montpellier - 16€ million
  • Matheus Cunha (ST) - FC Sion - 15€ million
  • Marcelo Saracchi (LB) - River Plate - 12€ million

Transfers out:

  • Naby Keita (CM) - Liverpool - 60€ million
  • Bernardo (LB) - Brighton - 10€ million
  • Benno Schmitz (RB) - FC Koln - 1.5€ million
  • Anthony Jung (LB) - Brondby IF - 800€ thousand
  • Agyemang Diawusie (RM) - FC Ingolstadt - 500€ thousand
  • Ademola Lookman (LW) - Everton - End of Loan

The name of note here is obviously Naby Keita. The rising star will be tough to replace and it will take a team effort to continue his production. He left the team as the third leading goal scorer and tied for second in assists last season. Young Brazilian winger Matheus Cunha may provide some help, but in general Leipzig will be looking for in house improvements from individual players to take the young team to another level.

The defense could see a slight improvement this season with two up and coming players coming in to replace one heading out. Leipzig need the help as they allowed the same amount of goals as relegated Hamburg last season, but their additions are young and may not be impactful immediately.

It seems Leipzig trusts their young squad to improve naturally without the need off heavy reinforcements, but it certainly remains to be seen if they will be right in their assumption.

What to expect in 2018/19

Leipzig has not made significant changes or made any panic moves and appear content letting the roster grow on its own. I think this is the right call. Their top seven scorers were all under the age of 25 last season, and the rest of the team is young and improving as well.

Timo Werner, barring any last minute transfers, should take a big step next season and I could see him finishing top 3 in goals in the Bundesliga. Werner will certainly be the key to success for Leipzig. The defense will likely be improved but still struggle, and he will be needed to keep pace with the teams surrounding them.

Prediction: Top 4

I think Leipzig is going to manage to put it together this season and sneak into a top 4 spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hoffenheim struggles slightly with a coach on the way out and a new focus on the Champions League, and I think Leipzig can put together a complete season and finish a point or two ahead.