Bayern 0 Leipzig 0 Player Ratings

The Bundesliga’s top of the table clash lived up to the billing with a tense high quality affair. In recent seasons, Bayern have used their home games against the closest challengers to dish out a lesson, so it was nice to see Leipzig actually come with a plan to negate the champions and make this a contest. Here are my ratings for all the players involved.

Bayern Munich

Manuel Neuer 5

While he wasn’t called into action when it came to shot-stopping, he made a series of terrible decisions in the first ten minutes of the second half for which Bayern should have been punished but for Leipzig’s profligacy.

Benjamin Pavard 6

Delivered some dangerous balls when found on the overlap in the early stages of the game but struggled to get the better of Angelino as the game wore on.

David Alaba 8

An excellent display by the Austrian, confirming his status as one of the most tactically astute players in the modern game. Rarely troubled in one-on-one duels and comfortably cleared and intercepted balls when needed. Made the key block on Timo Werner after Neuer was ludicrously caught outside the box.

Jerome Boateng 6

Slowly but surely returning to the form that made him one of the best centre-backs in the world. Expertly cleared all of Leipzig’s crosses in the first half, but the pace of the game began to tell on him in the second half and was correctly substituted as Christopher Nkunku started to get the better of him.

Alphonso Davies 7

A phenomenal track back to steal the ball off Werner in an early counter set the tone for the Canadian’s game in which his pace caused the visitors all sorts of problems. Leipzig barely got any joy down Davies’ flank, and it was a bit of a mystery as to why Bayern didn’t try to find Davies on the overlap as much as Pavard.

Joshua Kimmich 6

Expected better from his set piece delivery when Bayern were all over Leipzig in the first half. Didn’t do much when in possession either, but redeemed his game with a brilliant header to deny the visitors in injury time.

Thiago 7

Synonym for metronome, the Spanish maestro looked like he would dictate the entire game with his pass-and-move rhythm. While his influence reduced as Leipzig got better, his passes remained the best outlet for Bayern to create chances in the second half.

Thomas Muller 6

As usual took up intelligent positions in the final third, but despite his best efforts it was a day when he wasn’t going to get any change from Leipzig’s three centre-backs.

Leon Goretzka 5

Like Muller, didn’t really perform to the standards he has set in the last month and was comfortably shackled. Could have scored the winner with ten minutes to go, but denied by excellent goalkeeping.

Serge Gnabry 4

A complete non-entity in this game, and while its only one game, for a match of this magnitude, Ivan Perisic was missed on Bayern’s left flank.

Robert Lewandowski 6

Starved of service and expertly marshalled by Messrs Upamecano, Halstenberg and Klostermann, Bayern’s stalwart still came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half and then set up Goretzka’s big chance to seal the game with his imagination and vision.

Substitutes

Philippe Coutinho 5

Came on for the ineffective Gnabry, but wasn’t able to do much and failed to provide the expected x-factor to unlock an organized defence.

Lucas Hernandez 7

A significant return from injury for Bayern. The French World Cup winner came on for Boateng and he immediately nullified Nkunku’s threat with excellent positioning and game reading.

Kingsley Coman 6

Though only on for ten minutes, Coman created enough danger in a short space of time thanks to his natural dribbling and ability to stretch the game on the flanks. Another timely return from injury for Bayern.

RB Leipzig

Peter Gulacsi 8

A good save early in the game to stop a Thiago curler, but his outstanding save to deny Goretzka at the end gave Leipzig a point that yet may prove to be defining this season.

Dayot Upamecano 9

A towering performance from the 21-year old Frenchman whose aura continues to grow. The numbers tell part of the story. Two tackles, four interceptions, eight clearances and three blocked shots. But how do we quantify the composure, presence of mind and bravery? To top it all off, he brought the ball out of defence superbly and sprayed some raking balls to set up Leipzig’s counter attacks. A performance that elevates careers.

Marcel Halstenberg 8

Shifted to left-sided centre back from his usual position as left back, Halstenberg barely put a foot wrong and his discipline was crucial in the visitors executing Julian Nagelsmann’s altered tactical plan. Contributed with six clearances and six interceptions, most of them to withstand Bayern’s dominance in the first half.

Lukas Klostermann 8

Was afforded no protection against Davies’ surging runs on the left thanks to a static Tyler Adams, but to his credit dealt with the threat brilliantly, making seven tackles to negate Bayern’s threat on his flank.

Tyler Adams 5

Made to look like a passenger against Davies’ pace and trickery; Nagelsmann is unlikely to repeat the experiment of playing the American at wing back. Improved in the second half in more central positions.

Marcel Sabitzer 6

A disciplined defensive performance by the Austrian, which resulted in the curbing of his attacking instincts. The one time he made a run into the box, he shanked a sitter that would have given Leipzig the lead within a minute of the restart.

Konrad Laimer 8

Leipzig’s other Austrian midfielder put in one of his best performances of the season. It was the very definition of all action. Five tackles, three interceptions, some excellent diagonals to bypass Bayern’s midfield; all the while mixing calmness on the ball with the steely resolve of not letting anyone past him.

Angelino 7

League debuts don’t come much tougher than Bayern away, but after a very uncomfortable first thirty minutes, the former City man was rarely beaten, showing a resolute side to his game that we hadn’t seen before.

Dani Olmo 5

A first start away at Bayern where Nagelsmann prioritized defensive solidity for once, meant this wasn’t the kind of game where the Spanish creator could have much of an influence.

Christopher Nkunku 7

A handful for Bayern’s defence with his movement across the final third. The perfect outlet for Leipzig on the counter. Must still be wondering how his assist didn’t deliver the game winning goal for his side.

Timo Werner 4

For the third consecutive game, Werner’s frustration got the better of him. Not able to get any change from Alaba or Davies, Werner tried to interchange positions across the frontline without much success. Could have given Leipzig the lead after Neuer’s brain fade but was too rushed. Should definitely have given Leipzig the lead after Nkunku’s excellent square ball, but missed. Failed to make an impact on a big game again.

Substitutes

Patrick Schick 4

Came on for Olmo, but in 22 minutes all I can remember is one touch leading to a corner and not much else as Leipzig shut up shop.

Ademola Lookman 5

A rare outing for the Englishman. Actually found himself in good positions in the final third and could have made a decisive late contribution but for Kimmich expertly diverting his cross.

Yussuf Poulsen N/A

Came on to eat a few seconds right at the end.

Assessing Gladbach’s win over Bayern

It’s important to look at Gladbach’s win over Bayern with objectivity. First of all Borussia Park has always been a difficult place for Bayern to visit. Even Pep’s Bayern lost there a couple of times and it’s clear that the Foals raise themselves to another level when they host the perennial champions.

However, it’s been a long time since Gladbach welcomed Bayern as equals, at least according to the table. I think this clearly weighed on the league leaders once the game got underway because the occasion got to them. For the first 60 minutes Bayern were getting a flashback of last weekend, where they dominated Leverkusen, created chance after chance but failed to score.

It was almost like Bayern needed to score for Gladbach to feel like their natural place in the pecking order was restored. Now more comfortable as passionate underdogs, the home side finally dug in, fuelled by Marco Rose throwing caution to the wind and bringing Breel Embolo on. They duly equalized, in some part down to Bayern’s lackadaisical set piece defending, but one sensed the tide had turned.

In truth, despite being roared on by a passionate crowd, I can’t recall Gladbach doing anything particularly incisive other than Marcus Thuram giving Bayern’s defence a bloody nose with his runs and trickery. A draw seemed likely, and I don’t think the hosts would have been too disappointed.

Then came the penalty in stoppage time, again thanks to that man Thuram. Considering what was at stake, left back Remy Bensebaini showed incredible composure to wait and pick his corner exactly to give the leaders a memorable win.

The result means Gladbach stay on top of the Bundesliga for the 8th consecutive week. Despite this remarkable run, it’s too early to say the Foals are contenders, let alone favourites. That being said, the nature of this win, when they were nowhere near their best for a long time and still managed to beat the champions while coming from behind, speaks volumes for their confidence. If they can maintain this momentum till the winter break and keep a position in the top two, then come January, we really can say that Marco Rose’s men are genuine title contenders in Germany.

Hoffenheim in control of top 4 spot

The Bundesliga resumed on Friday with a crucial game in the race for Champions League qualification as fifth placed Hertha Berlin welcomed fourth placed Hoffenheim and Julian Nagelsmann’s men left capital with a crucial 3-1 win. The hosts had the better of the game in the opening quarter but after Andrej Kramarić’s penalty cancelled Peter Pekarík’s opener, the visitors gradually gained control and could have won by a bigger margin. Niklas Süle’s superb strike after Hertha Berlin went down to 10 men and a second for Kramarić late on, gave Hoffenheim a well-deserved three points.

Continue reading “Hoffenheim in control of top 4 spot”

This Football Weekend

As we approach the halfway point of the season, the pressure is mounting at the top end of leagues all across Europe. Teams will be looking to finish 2016 on a high note, but to do so they will have to overcome tough opponents. There are plenty of exciting big games and unpredictable fixtures taking place all over the continent and here are my picks for the matches to follow this football weekend. 

Friday, December 16th

Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund (4th vs 6th in the Bundesliga)

Saturday, December 17th 

RB Leipzig vs Hertha Berlin (2nd vs 3rd in the Bundesliga)

Atletico Madrid vs Las Palmas (6th vs 10th in La Liga)

Guingamp vs Paris Saint-Germain (6th vs 3rd in Ligue 1. Guingamp manager Antoine Kombouaré will be looking to prove a point against his former employers)

AC Milan vs Atalanta (3rd vs 6th in Serie A)

Oostende vs Zulte-Waregem (4th vs 1st in a clash of Belgium’s most surprising teams)

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester United (7th vs 6th in the Premier League)

Juventus vs Roma (1st vs 2nd in Serie A)

Sunday, December 18th

Bournemouth vs Southampton (10th vs 9th in the Premier League’s south coast derby)

Napoli vs Torino (4th vs 8th in a match between Serie A’s third-highest scoring teams)

Ajax vs PSV Eindhoven (2nd vs 3rd in the Eredivisie’s biggest rivalry)

Manchester City vs Arsenal (4th vs 3rd in the Premier League)

Barcelona vs Espanyol (2nd vs 9th in La Liga’s Catalan derby)

Lazio vs Fiorentina (5th vs 7th in Serie A)

Monaco vs Lyon (2nd vs 4th in Ligue 1)

Sporting Lisbon vs Braga (3rd vs 4th in the Primeira Liga)

Monday, December 19th

Everton vs Liverpool (8th vs 2nd in the Premier League’s Merseyside Derby)

This Football Weekend

European competition has concluded for 2016 and from now until February, the focus will be on domestic football on the continent. This weekend sees some heavyweight clashes across many different leagues. Here are my picks for the games to watch this weekend:

Friday, December 9th

Eintracht Frankfurt vs Hoffenheim (5th vs 4th in the Bundesliga)

Saturday, December 10th

Cologne vs Borussia Dortmund (7th vs 6th in the Bundesliga)

Bordeaux vs Monaco (7th vs 2nd in Ligue 1)

Leicester vs Manchester City (The Premier League Champions in 16th welcome 4th placed City)

Sunday, December 11th

Anderlecht vs Club Brugge (3rd vs 2nd in the Belgian Pro League)

Torino vs Juventus (7th vs 1st in Serie A’s Turin derby)

Manchester United vs Tottenham (6th vs 5th in the Premier League)

Schalke 04 vs Bayer Leverkusen (8th vs 9th, between two of Bundesliga’s European powers)

Benfica vs Sporting (1st vs 2nd in the Primeira Liga)

Paris Saint-Germain vs Nice (3rd vs 1st in Ligue 1)

Monday, December 12th

Villarreal vs Atletico Madrid (6th vs 4th in La Liga)

Roma vs AC Milan (2nd vs 3rd in Serie A)