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|Back Wolfsburg to beat RB Leipzig on Sunday. Oliver Glasner’s side are underdogs, but they need the points more than their opponents and will be fresher after having the midweek off.|
|RB Leipzig vs Wolfsburg Information|
|Teams||RB Leipzig vs Wolfsburg|
|Location||Red Bull Arena, Leipzig, Germany|
|Time||Sunday, 16 May 2021, 2.30 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Watch on ESPN+ here!|
RB Leipzig are a club that are not really accustomed to disappointment. Founded in 2009, they rose from the fifth tier of the German soccer pyramid to the second in the space of five years. Promotion to the Bundesliga followed in 2016, after which Leipzig immediately finished as runners-up in the top flight. In the four seasons since then, they have qualified for the Champions League three times. Failure is not a familiar feeling at the Red Bull Arena.
Avoiding defeat by Wolfsburg would be enough for Leipzig to secure their second Bundesliga runners-up finish. They go into the weekend with a four-point cushion above their upcoming opponents, who could yet finish second but only if Leipzig lose here and also slip-up on the final weekend. This will be Julian Nagelsmann’s last game in charge of the home team at the Red Bull Arena, and he will be keen to sign off in style before joining Bayern Munich.
Catching Bayern and winning the title is one of the few remaining obstacles Leipzig are yet to overcome. It will not be easy. Leipzig are currently 10 points behind the Bavarian giants, who celebrated a ninth consecutive Bundesliga crown last week. Leipzig actually have a better defensive record than the perennial champions this season, but they have scored 35 fewer goals than Bayern. The center-back Dayot Upamecano will be following Nagelsmann to the Allianz Arena this summer.
Jesse Marsch has already been confirmed as Leipzig’s next manager. He is an astute tactician and is well versed in the Red Bull system. Overhauling Bayern at the summit of the standings will be difficult, though, while Borussia Dortmund could also challenge for a second spot next term.
Wolfsburg can still finish second this term, but they would be happy enough with fourth right now. The top four in the Bundesliga qualify automatically for the group stage of the Champions League, and that would represent a fine achievement for Glasner and his players. They are almost there, with one win from their remaining two games likely to be enough due to the fact they have a superior goal difference to fifth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt.
Wolfsburg finished seventh last season, although before the coronavirus-induced hiatus they looked capable of challenging for the top four. It appears as though Glasner has learned from his team’s shortcomings in 2019/20, with the Wolves having already amassed 11 more points than they managed last time out.
Wolfsburg have not always made it easy for themselves, however. A concern ahead of this game is their recent record against their fellow Champions League challengers. Wolfsburg have lost to Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Eintracht Frankfurt over the last few weeks. They did draw 2-2 with Leipzig in the reverse fixture back in the middle of January, but that is the only time they have avoided defeat by the teams that make up the rest of the top four.
Wolfsburg have managed to keep their Champions League bid on course by being consistent against the rest of the division. Those losses to Bayern, Dortmund, and Frankfurt were a little more tolerable given the Wolves have beaten Schalke, Werder Bremen, Koln, Stuttgart, and Union Berlin in the last couple of months.
Wolfsburg’s aforementioned record against the big boys might not fill their fans with confidence ahead of Sunday’s showdown. It is true that Glasner has struggled to get the right balance in such matches. Wolfsburg are usually solid at the back but their defense has not been able to hold firm against the division’s best teams, with 16 goals conceded in seven games against Bayern, Leipzig, Dortmund, and Frankfurt.
There is reason to believe this game could be different, though. For a start, Wolfsburg needs the points more than Leipzig. That is not to say that Nagelsmann’s side will not be going all-out for victory, but it might be hard for them to muster the same intensity as their opponents, who have the chance to in effect book a spot in the Champions League with victory.
There is another reason why Leipzig might struggle to perform at full capacity. They took to the field on Thursday, losing 4-1 to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal final. That experience will have been both mentally and physically draining, particularly towards the end of a jam-packed campaign. Leipzig might find it difficult to go again within three days, while the fact that Bayern have already sealed the title means there is not even a tiny chance of them getting their hands on the biggest prize of all.
Wolfsburg have been poor in the big matches this season, but Sunday’s game could belatedly bring them a headline-grabbing victory.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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