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Bundesliga picks: Matchweek 21

Stefan Buzcko.jpg

Stefan Buczko

Soccer writer and host of Yellow Wall podcast

Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig (Saturday, 5 February)

The Bundesliga has another prominent fixture in store for its fans this weekend. League leader Bayern Munich hosts last season’s runners-up RB Leipzig on Saturday in the late kick-off slot, the so-called “Topspiel."

Only this time, the team from eastern Germany is not quite keeping up with the perennial champion but instead sitting in sixth place and 18 points off the lead, eyeing a return to the top four before the end of the season. Bayern Munich is in no small part to blame for Leipzig’s struggles this season after luring three key-pieces to the Säbenerstraße last summer including team captain Marcel Sabitzer, center-back Dayot Upamecano and head coach Julian Nagelsmann, who is the highest-rated coach in the Bundesliga.

Life after Nagelsmann?

RasenBallsport’s first attempt to replace the 34-year-old with American coach Jesse Marsch did not work out, and Domenico Tedesco took over after Matchday 14 with Leipzig in 11th place. Although pundits wouldn’t describe Tedesco’s brand of football as sparkling, he has helped the team to gradually move back up the table.

Leipzig is the team of the hour, and Germany’s most successful side in 2022 after winning all four of its competitive fixtures so far, including three consecutive 2-0 wins across the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal.

The Red Bull soccer franchise has attempted to associate itself with high-intensity pressing across their range of clubs, but this season Leipzig does not live up to that image. For instance, their attacking-third pressures have regressed from 44.7 per 90 minutes last season to an average of 39 this season. On the flip side, Leipzig is under more pressure in its defensive third with an average of 38 opposing pressures per game compared to 33.6 last season.

Alarmingly, die Roten Bullen have scored the third-fewest goals shortly after forcing a turnover. But the more pedestrian style has not hindered the side from boasting the second-best defense in the Bundesliga with 23 goals conceded (Bayern ranks best with 19 GA) despite overperforming their xGA of 28.9, which only ranks eighth-best in the league. Typically, you must ride your luck a little to grab a result at the Allianz Arena. However, Leipzig has never won in Munich in its short history. Their overall record of one win, four draws and six defeats against the Bavarians does not bode well.

In fact, there are many ways to express Bayern’s dominance: they are undefeated against Leipzig in eight straight games across all competitions. In five of those, there were shutouts too. The bigger picture is that Bayern has won the Bundesliga in every season Leipzig has been in it.

Leipzig need goals

So if the Saxony team wants to break its Allianz Arena duck, the attack needs to snap out of its funk. Despite posting the second-best xG record (42.2) of the Bundesliga, the offense has only produced the fifth-most league goals (38). One of the culprits is striker Andre Silva. The former Eintracht Frankfurt player initially struggled to adjust to his new team, scoring just two goals across the first 12 Matchdays before raising his game to bag six in his last eight games.

But looking at the Bundesliga today, the best bet for which Leipzig player will score against Bayern would be Christopher Nkunku. The 24-year-old has been box office this season with nine goals and seven assists (G+A 0.87 per 90). The Frenchman’s quick feet and technical skill allows him to unlock defenses all by himself and he has conjured many goals for his team out of nothing this season.

However, Bayern is still the odds-on favorite for this game, not just because they are the best team in Germany playing at home, but also because they are on a mission to extend the six-point lead in the table over second-place Borussia Dortmund in order to build a cushion before the crucial Champions League fixtures resume.

Nagelsmann has arguably improved Bayern since taking over from Hansi Flick. Sixteen wins after 20 games is the third-best ever return at this stage of a Bundesliga season, and has been bettered only by Pep Guardiola’s Bayern. On track for a 10th-straight domestic title, Bayern is set to write more Bundesliga history. An incredible 65 goals scored after 20 games marks a new record (58 was the previous best) and the perennial champions have scored in each of their last 67 league games. With Robert Lewandowski alone scoring at a rate of 1.2 goals per game (23 in 20), it’s not a bold prediction for him to score again this week.

Bundesliga Picks:

- Nkunku to score at any time (+300)

- Lewandowski to score at any time (-225)

Bundesliga odds

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Odds updated: May 20, 11:26 PM UTC

Soccer bets explained

Moneyline

Aka match result odds, the moneyline is the most straightforward bet available if we are looking to wager on a soccer match – which team do we think is going to win? We decide and place our bet accordingly. Important to note in soccer, unlike many other sports, the moneyline can also include the third option of betting on the tie (draw).

  • Division
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  • All Divisions
Team G W D L GD Pts
1 Bayern Munich Bayern Munich 34 24 5 5 60 77
2 Borussia Dortmund Borussia Dortmund 34 22 3 9 33 69
3 Bayer Leverkusen Bayer Leverkusen 34 19 7 8 33 64
4 RB Leipzig RB Leipzig 34 17 7 10 35 58
5 1. FC Union Berlin 1. FC Union Berlin 34 16 9 9 6 57
6 Freiburg Freiburg 34 15 10 9 12 55

Last updated: May 20, 11:15 PM UTC

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