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Back RB Leipzig to beat Union Berlin this weekend (+105)
This will not be an easy game for Domenico Tedesco’s side, but we nevertheless fancy them to get off the mark for the season on Saturday.
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If last season had started when Domenico Tedesco was appointed at the Red Bull Arena in December, RB Leipizg would have finished as Bundesliga runners-up with just three fewer points than Bayern Munich. Tedesco inherited a team from Jesse Marsch that had made a poor start to the season: when he was handed the reins, Leipzig were in the bottom half of the table, having failed to win nine of their first 14 matches. But Tedesco turned the situation around in an impressive fashion and lifted the DFB-Pokal trophy to boot.
Leipzig, therefore, entered the current campaign with high hopes. Challenging for the title will almost certainly be beyond them, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. But Leipzig felt they could be the best of the rest, especially after Dortmund were forced to sell Erling Haaland to Manchester City after the buyout clause in his contract was triggered.
Finishing second remains the ambition, but Leipzig have not had everything their own way so far. After losing to Bayern in the DFB-Supercup, Tedesco’s charges have drawn back-to-back Bundesliga matches with Stuttgart and Koln.
A 2-2 tie with the latter last time out was not an entirely bad result given that Leipzig had to play the whole of the second half with 10 men. Christopher Nkunku, a candidate to finish as the Bundesliga’s top scorer this season, got on the scoresheet, as did returning hero Timo Werner. The German forward is back at the Red Bull Arena after an underwhelming three-year spell at Chelsea, in which he won the Champions League but did not live up to expectations.
Tedesco has spoken of his desire for Leipzig to be flexible and adaptable this season. Marsch’s attempt to restore the team’s prior transition-based identity did not work out, and his replacement is aiming for a blend of quick counter-attacks and possession soccer. Only time will tell how far his approach can take Leipzig.
Union Berlin finished just a point behind Leipzig last season. They came so close to finishing in the top four, which would have been an astonishing accomplishment for a club that was playing its soccer in the 2. Bundesliga as recently as 2019.
A fifth-place finish means they will be competing in the Europa League this term, and many expect Union’s domestic form to suffer as they strive to balance two tournaments in a hectic period before the 2022 World Cup, which gets underway in November.
The various continental competitions do not begin until next month, and Union’s solid start to the season has led some to revise their predictions already. A 3-1 victory over Hertha Berlin in the derby on the opening weekend was followed by a 0-0 draw with Mainz last time out. That leaves Union as one of only six teams in the Bundesliga with four or more points to their name so far.
Urs Fischer’s side have made a habit of exceeding expectations, so no one should write them off completely this campaign. The exit of Taiwo Awoniyi, their top scorer last season, is a blow, but Union have a good track record in the transfer market and Theoson Siebatcheu, Awoniyi’s replacement, scored on his league debut. He will be looking to add to his tally this weekend.
Tedesco will know that this team will be in for a tough game against Union, who are one of the most difficult teams in the division to play against when they are firing on all cylinders. Only Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund amassed more points in home games than the club from the capital last term, and the Union fans are guaranteed to make Stadion An der Alten Forsterei a fortress once again in 2022/23.
Union are also defensively solid and finished last season with the third-fewest number of goals conceded in the division. Even so, we fancy Leipzig to get the better of them this weekend. Tedesco’s side would almost certainly have beaten Koln had they had 11 men for the whole match, so we should not read too much into the result.
There are signs that Leipzig are beginning to gel together, and Werner’s return increases their threat on the break. That skill could become useful in this match if Leipzig take the lead, but first they will need to show patience in possession to break down opponents that like to sit deep and stay compact. It will be tight, but Leipzig should find a way to get the job done.
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|Teams||Union Berlin vs RB Leipzig|
|Location||Stadion An der Alten Forsterei, Berlin, Germany|
|Time||Saturday, 20 August 2022, 11.30AM EST|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
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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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