Wednesday Nov 30, 2016. 18:39
Love them or hate them, RB Leipzig are here to stay.
When Red Bull energy drink decided to become involved in German football, they found some obstacles in their way.
Unlike many other leagues throughout Europe, in Germany investors are not simply allowed to come in, buy the majority of shares and run a club.
So, Red Bull had to start at the bottom, so to say. They identified a club in Leipzig (SV Markranstädt), took over the playing rights of that club and started playing in the fifth tier of German football – the NOFV-Oberliga Süd.
Football authorities scuppered their attempts to rename the club Red Bull Leipzig, which the company wanted to do in line with other clubs they owned, Red Bull New York and Red Bull Salzburg.
The club then came up with the idea of calling themselves RasenBallsport Leipzig, which translated means lawn ball sport, but more importantly gave them the opportunity to shorten the name to RB Leipzig.
Armed with a fat cheque book, they had the aim of reaching the Bundesliga in eight years.
They dominated their inaugural season in the fifth division and were promoted as champions in 2010, winning 26 out of 30 matches.
They then spent three seasons in the Regionalliga Nordost, one year in the 3.Liga and two years in the 2.Bundesliga, before gaining promotion to the top of the league pyramid in May 2016.
For the first time in their short history, after a dramatic 3-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen at the start of match day 11, the club went to the top of the Bundesliga, stunning not only fans in Germany but around the world.
They followed that up with an emphatic 4-1 win in Freiburg, maintaining their three-point lead over champions Bayern Munich.
Although they are only in their first season in the league, they have already lost the tag of underdogs, and fans and pundits are starting to wonder if one of the most controversial clubs in German football could dethrone the great Bayern Munich and claim the title.
After becoming the first club from eastern Germany to lead the Bundesliga since 1991, when Hansa Rostock led for one week, even Leipzig themselves are starting to think it could be a special season.
Sporting director Ralf Rangnick said it was very unlikely that they they will win the league, but then added: On the other hand, the last year in England showed that a team that can't win, can win. It happened there.”
Germany international Mats Hummels also thinks that the team should be taken seriously.
“I think if we drop points, they are title challengers,” the Bayern defender said – even before Leipzig knocked the Bavarians off the top spot in the league.
‘Die Bullen’ have shown themselves to be a team that fears no-one, and that has shown in their results. After their victory against Freiburg, they are now 12 games undefeated, scoring 27 and conceding 10: no team has scored more and only Bayern and Cologne have conceded less.
RB Leipzig’s coach Ralph Hasenhuttl seems to have found the perfect formula, setting up his team in a 4-2-2-2 formation in nine of their eleven matches so far this season. This set-up is getting them results, and it is also bringing the best out of certain individuals as well as the team.
Naby Keita is one of the stars of this young team. The 21-year-old Guinea international, the fifth player from his homeland to feature in the Bundesliga, spent three years with RB Salzburg in Austria, before joining Leipzig for €15 million.
He is an integral part of the squad, featuring nine times this season, scoring four times, including the winner against Borussia Dortmund.
Winger Emil Forsberg has also enjoyed an impressive start to the season; the Swede, in his third season with club, is currently their top scorer on five goals, just three goals behind his tally from last season, and also has five assists to his name.
Leipzig have performed against every team they have faced so far this season, but their biggest test comes just before Christmas.
‘Die Bullen’ will travel to the Allianz Arena on the 21st December to face the great Bayern Munich, but they will most probably go into the fixture with no fear.
If they can show their quality against the best team in German football, there is no reason why they couldn’t follow in the footsteps of Kaiserslautern, who in 1998 became the first – and to date -only newly promoted team to win the Bundesliga.
The Sports Channels Director of StarTimes, Myke Mwai Mugo, said that he was pleased his company was able to show Leipzig matches throughout Africa. “This weekend they are at home to Schalke and I am sure that all opponents facing them will take them very seriously.”
The game, which will be shown live on the World Football Channel (channel number: 254 on DTT platform and 245 on DTH platform) of StarTimes at 17:30GMT on Saturday, is one of nine Bundesliga matches that StarTimes subscribers will be able to see this weekend.