17:00 (BST); Sunday 1st October; RheinEnergieStadion (Cologne, Germany) BT Sport 1
This season has seen FC Köln fail to win a match and, if their poor run continues against RB Leipzig, then alarm bells will ring. On top of this, coach Peter Stöger will fear for his job if his Köln side can’t collect at least a point at the RheinEnergieStadion.
RB Leipzig have had an up and down start to the season achieving several good results in the Bundesliga whilst failing to achieve a win in their debut in the Champions League.
A defeat for Köln would be their 6th defeat in seven games and leave them rooted at the bottom of the standings whilst a Leipzig win could see Die Roten Bullen comfortable into the top five.
Last time out
KÖLN 0-1 Red Star Belgrade [Europa League]
There was a carnival atmosphere in Cologne as Peter Stöger’s side hosted their first European tie in 25 years. Their opponents were Serbian SuperLiga runners-up, Red Star Belgrade. It would be the Serbians who started the brightest, peppering half chances on Timo Horn’s goal. On the half-hour mark, Belgrade would take the lead: Richmond Boakye was given too much space from Jorge Mere and the Ghanian punished Köln with a powerful curling shot into the top left corner.
Köln were much better in the second half and slowly took control of the contest. Miloš Jojić came close on 58 minutes as his shot rattle the frame of the goal. The former Partizan player was up for the battle against Belgrade’s arch rivals and 11 minutes later, Jojić rattled the woodwork again.
Luck was against Köln, though, as, on 75 minutes, they hit the post a third time through Leonardo Bittencourt. The result was not a fair reflection on the game: Köln deserving of at least a point.
Besiktas 2-0 RB LEIPZIG [Champions League]
After a win on Matchday 6 of the Bundesliga, Leipzig made their first Champions League appearance on foreign soil, heading to Istanbul where they faced Turkish Champions Besiktas. Leipzig got off to the worst possible start with former Liverpool winger Ryan Babel putting the ball past Péter Gulácsi in the 11th minute.
Besiktas continued to apply the pressure and, just before halftime, they doubled their advantage when Talisca headed home from close range. It was a rotten day for Leipzig on their first Champions League away trip.
Injuries are piling up for Peter Stöger for their clash with RB Leipzig. Last time out, Köln played in a 3-5-2 formation but this time around Peter Stöger is likely to return to a 4-2-3-1. Marco Höger returns in place of Salih Özcan whilst Dominic Maroh with Sehrou Guirassy playing a wider role.
RB Leipzig Lineup
It was a difficult night in Istanbul for RB Leipzig but they now have the chance to bounce back before the international break. Timo Werner left the pitch on 32 minutes due to vertigo and will likely miss the clash against Köln. This means that, for the first time this season, we will see Yussuf Poulsen start alongside Jean-Kévin Augustin.
Lukas Klostermann will return to the starting line-up with Stefan Ilsanker dropping to the bench. With Naby Keïta serving the final match of his suspension, Kevin Kampl will be brought in as cover in central midfield.
Key Battles: Yuya Osako vs Marcel Sabitzer
Yuya Osako was one Köln’s pivotal players last season and he, along with Anthony Modeste, was a key reason The Billy Goats finished 5th and in the Europa League places. However, this season the Japanese international has been a shadow of his former self, struggling to adapt to Jhon Cordoba, his new strike partner.
Last season, Osako won 43% of his tackles, 39% of take-ons and 33% of all aerial duels. This campaign has seen Osako less able to win his duels with only 40% of tackles won, 13% of take-ons and 25% of aerial duels. For Köln to be successful, they need Osako back to his best.
Marcel Sabitzer might be one of the more underrated players on the RB Leipzig squad. Initially a relative unknown, Sabitzer burst onto the scene with quick feet, lightning pace and an ability to break the lines.
For a winger, his tackling is very much undervalued and, so far this season, it’s been no exception with the Austrian winning 59% of his tackles. Only Dayot Upamecano has made more tackles and has a better winning percentage. Look for Sabitzer to win the hardball against Köln on Matchday 7.
Need to refresh
With the international break over the horizon, it’s fair to assume that Köln will be looking forward to it, hoping to work hard on the training pitch and begin again the following week with a blank canvas. It’s been a horrific start for Köln with only a single point from their opening six. Their strong suit under Peter Stöger has been their defence but they have already conceded 13 goals this term. If they can come away with something against Leipzig, Köln will have something to build upon going into the break.
Opportunity to impose
Ralph Hasenhüttl, RB Leipzig’s coach, as a clear idea of who his best starting eleven. As a result, several squad players have been at the fringes of the club even despite Leipzig’s forays into Europe. This includes players who were regulars last season who have been displaced in favour of other squad members. The likes of Benno Schmitz, Bernardo, Marvin Compper and, to an extent, Yussuf Poulsen have found first-team football less frequent. If Poulsen gets the chance to start, a goal or two will prove he is eager to return as a starter.
Prediction: Köln 0-2 RB Leipzig
It’s been a busy stretch for RB Leipzig who have now played 7 games within a 25-day stretch and with such a young side, it will be interesting to see how they cope. The East German club will be happy to conclude their busy schedule with a win but questions will remain unanswered if their side don’t run out the game as winners.
Köln have also played 7 games in a short time period. The club desperately need a win not only to lift morale within the dressing room but to keep the fans optimistic that the side can pick itself up and move up the table. Unfortunately for Köln fans, it’s hard to see them getting a result in this game meaning they are likely to yield to a 6th league defeat in seven matches.
Can Köln finally get their first win of the season or will RB Leipzig condemn the hosts to another defeat? Let us know in the comments section below.
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