(Editor: This piece is the beginning of a series covering RasenBallsport Leipzig’s seemingly inevitable promotion to the Bundesliga at the end of this 2015-16 season. The eastern German club is sitting confidently at 1st place in the Bundesliga 2 table with a sizable gap between themselves and clubs #2 and #3. Promotion seems extremely likely for this most polarizing of German clubs. In this series, Max Regenhuber will document the energy drink company-backed club’s march to the top flight. If you’re new to this topic, check out our topic tag for RB Leipzig.)
By Max Regenhuber
Leipzig’s biggest win of the week occurred when midfield maestro Emil Forsberg announced his contract extension through 2021. It is pretty sweet for RB no matter how this plays out, since Forsberg stays until 2021 or he will be sold for an enormous fee since there is no exit clause worked into his extension. Liverpool tried to sign Forsberg during the winter break and should Forsberg show his best stuff at the Euros alongside Ibrahimovic, Leipzig can sell the Swede for at least 20 million to the right buyer.
Not a bad ROI for a player who only cost 3.7 million.
On the pitch, Leipzig had two winnable matchups in front of them and didn’t impress, but also didn’t choke.
Matchday 23: SC Paderborn 0 – 1 RB Leipzig
Remember SC Paderborn? They were last years Darmstadt 98.
Every season, an underdog newly-promoted team surprises everyone during the Hinrunde. After a while relegation rivals like HSV, Hannover or Hoffenheim get active on the winter market, teams adjust to the newcomers’ style and a couple month later the fairytale is over. The cute underdog gets sent back to the second tier and has to hard-reset.
That’s where Paderborn is at right now. The post-Bundesliga hangover hit the SCP so hard that they are next to last right now. Appointing rookie coach Stefan Effenberg also didn’t help, he is gone by now.
Avoiding a 3.Liga drop is all Paderborn cares about and that’s how they played against Leipzig. This game was an ugly dogfight on a terrible pitch.
In the end, a set piece goal (Compper 63’ assist by Kaiser) was all that separated the two teams. There were enough chances for a 2:2 or 3:3, but finishing was terrible on both ends.
This was a hard earned Arbeitssieg (ugly win) against a physical and motivated squad that wasn’t talented enough to hurt Leipzig.
Matchday 24: RB Leipzig 3 – 1 FC Heidenheim
This matwas a real test. Heidenheim played solid counter attacking football and defended their 1:0 lead cleverly fo a long stretch. RB (again) got a little too fancy at times and wasted many great scoring chances. In the end Heidenheim got tired and RB cracked the brick wall.
This was a 17:30 game on a workday, so unfortunately I only caught the last half hour of the match live and only saw the phase of the game when RB was dominating, so check out the video to see for yourself.
Promotion Race Implications
The Bulls (1st place/52 points) went 2 for 2 this week. Of course they stay on top, but both Freiburg (2nd/47) and Nürnberg (3rd/44) also took 6 points from their games, so the promotion picture pretty much stayed the same.
And let’s not sleep on the fringe contenders St.Pauli (4th/42) and Bochum (5th/39) who are still alive in the promotion race.
According to Buli-Box, 58,7 points secured 3rd place every time since 1996, when the 3-points-per-win model was introduced.
RB only needs two more wins with 10 games left to get to that total.
Of course, nobody in Leipzig wants any part of a 3rd place finish and enter the risky home & away Relegation playoffs (Eintracht Frankfurt would be the opponent if the season ended today).
“Top Two or bust” was the season objective. And the battle for 2nd place could be won over the next 3 games. RB will travel to Freiburg and Nürnberg with a home game against 1860 München (16th/21) in between. If Leipzig protects the three game advantage over Nürnberg during this three game series, it seems highly unlikely that the 1.FCN AND SC Freiburg will catch them over the remaining 7 games.
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