Bundesliga Zeitung by Andy Wales.
It was the most hotly-anticipated game of the weekend in the Bundesliga. Saturday’s Topspiel between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig turned out to be the very definition of the word.
In my last column, I mused whether or not Leipzig would be able to rise to the task in hand. Principally, my questioning surrounded the context of this game. The short recovery from a strenuous European tie and the prospect of another just a few days after facing Bayern. I wondered if that vital game coming up against Manchester United might act as a distraction from taking on Bayern.
It’s fair to say that Leipzig were not distracted one bit. There were no signs of fatigue, no wandering minds or any hints of holding back. Right from the off, Leipzig were high on energy and aggression against the reigning Bundesliga champions.
Marcel Sabitzer had already hit the bar before Christopher Nkunku put Leipzig 1-0 up in a moment Manuel Neuer will want to forget.
They were more than good value for their lead, so it was against the run of play when Bayern snatched an equaliser. That Jamal Musiala goal proved to just be the start of an incredible six minutes of goal-laden drama.
Within four minutes of losing 1-0 and being outplayed, Bayern were 2-1 up through Thomas Müller. It spoke volumes for the Bayern mentality. They hadn’t been playing well in this game and their recent form hasn’t exactly been scintillating either. But, that magical consistency that I spoke about last week means they continue to churn out results.
At this point, many sides would feel sorry for themselves and be almost accepting of their fate. Credit to Leipzig though, they responded almost immediately. Justin Kluivert, with a touch and finish his father would be proud of, levelled things back up.
So, all-square at half-time in a thoroughly absorbing 45 minutes of football. Rather than a chess match between Hansi Flick and Julian Nagelsmann, we were treated to a heavyweight slugfest.
The second half started where the first had left off. Just a few minutes in, Emil Forsberg peeled off Jerome Boateng to head Leipzig back into the lead. Again though, you can never write Bayern off, and it was Müller again to draw them level.
In the latter stages, it was Bayern pushing for a winner, but it ended level in a spectacular stalemate. It means Bayern remain two points clear of Leipzig at the top of the table.
Bayern dropping points should be welcomed by Borussia Dortmund. However, they did the same thing themselves earlier in the day. An insipid first-half display saw them trail Eintracht 1-0 at the break.
It’s become a familiar pattern this season for Lucien Favre’s side. They start games too passively and score most of their goals in the second half.
Without the injured Erling Haaland, Dortmund lacked his presence in attack. Gio Reyna stepped up and rifled in a terrific strike to equalise. However, despite their efforts to find a winner, they only came away with a draw.
One point from two games they’d have been expected to win is why Dortmund have failed to stop Bayern. Had they won both, Dortmund would now be top.
It does offer encouragement to those close behind. Borussia Mönchengladbach have possibly suffered from their Champions League exploits. Another draw for them, this time in Freiburg, means they are a few points off the pace.
Union Berlin had been right up there, but suffered a 3-1 defeat to Hertha in the Berlin derby on Friday. That leaves them level on points with Gladbach, just behind Wolfsburg, who could also only draw. Saturday really was a day of stalemates.
It was left to Bayer Leverkusen to capitalise and leapfrog Leipzig. They took on the Bundesliga whipping boys Schalke on Sunday, with nothing less than a win deemed acceptable.
Schalke did show some fight and even had a penalty saved, but ultimately it was nowhere near enough. Leverkusen strolled to a 3-0 victory, passing the ball with ease around a downtrodden Schalke.
Leverkusen moved up to second, a point behind Bayern but are too inconsistent to be considered serious challengers.
For Schalke, the table makes for grim reading; they are rock bottom with just three points. At this stage, even a Christmas miracle won’t be enough to save the Royal Blues from relegation.
Arminia Bielefeld, Mainz, Köln and Bremen also find themselves down in the danger zone. With an Englische woche due soon, perhaps there might be a few more thrills and spills to come at both ends of the table.