The Bundesliga's top two do battle this weekend, and Kevin Hatchard expects a thriller, despite the absence of arguably the world's best centre-forward.
"Leipzig's games against the big guns this season have generally featured plenty of goals, and even without Lewandowski, Bayern still pose a significant attacking threat."
RB Leipzig v Bayern Munich
Saturday 03 April, 17:30
Live on BT Sport and Betfair Live Video
Leipzig face acid test
Since they were formed in 2009, by controversially taking over the playing licence of fifth-tier club Markrandstädt, RB Leipzig have been building towards a moment like the one they'll have on Saturday evening. They have reached the DFB Cup final and have made their way to a Champions League semi, but should they beat Bayern this weekend, they'll be a step closer to the ultimate aim of becoming the champions of Germany.
Coach Julian Nagelsmann saw his first attempt at winning the league with Leipzig drown in draws last season, but Die Roten Bullen are more ruthless these days. They have won 17 of their 26 league matches, and are only a victory short of last season's overall total. They have the best defensive record in the division, and they have only lost once all season at the Red Bulla Arena.
And yet one big doubt persists - can Leipzig win the big games against elite domestic opposition? Nagelsmann saw his side twice take the lead in Munich against Bayern earlier this season, but they couldn't see it through and had to settle for a 3-3 draw. Against Borussia Dortmund this term they lost 3-1 after being blown away in the second half, they drew twice with Eintracht Frankfurt and lost at Borussia Mönchengladbach. If you look at their record against Bayern, they have only beaten them once since they came into the top flight.
Leipzig are missing a couple of key players. Left-back Angelino hasn't played for over a month because of injury, while midfield fulcrum Kevin Kampl is suspended. Kampl's a key player in transition, as he's become very clever at stopping counterattacks with tactical fouls or clever interceptions. Centre-back Dayot Upamecano, who is joining Bayern in the summer, is an injury doubt.
Can Bayern win without Lewandowski?
Clubs are never happy about international breaks at the best of times, but Bayern have more reason than most to be annoyed. Robert Lewandowski, their spearhead and talisman, was injured playing for Poland against Andorra. He has slightly damaged knee ligaments, and could be out for four weeks. Not only will he miss this game, but he is also likely to miss both legs of the Champions League clash with PSG. His bid to break Gerd Müller's single-season Bundesliga scoring record of 40 goals is now in jeopardy.
So how do Bayern replace him? There is a possibility that Thomas Müller could be pushed forward, but it's perhaps more like that Müller will play in his usual role, with Serge Gnabry ahead of him, and a wing duo of Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman. That's still a lot of firepower, and there is a goalscoring threat from midfield, with Leon Goretzka alongside Joshua Kimmich.
There are however problems at the back. Jerome Boateng and Alphonso Davies are suspended, and Niklas Süle has only just returned from a thigh injury. Bayern are more vulnerable than usual in defence this term, having conceded 35 goals in their first 26 games, three goals more than they leaked in the whole of last season.
Draw would suit champions
The last four Bundesliga meetings between these two have ended level, and I do think backing the draw is an attractive option here at 3.814/5. If the game is level late on, a point would suit Bayern as it would maintain their lead at the top, while Leipzig know that a defeat ends their title bid.
Goals likely despite Lewy absence
If you look at Leipzig's games against the big hitters, they are often full of goals. They lost 5-0 at Manchester United but then beat them 3-2, they lost 3-1 to Dortmund, drew 3-3 at Bayern and edged out Gladbach 3-2.
Eleven of their 38 competitive games have featured four goals or more.
Six of Bayern's last eight games in all competitions have featured at least four goals, and that bet has landed in 23 of their 40 matches, including all three of their prime-time meetings with Borussia Dortmund. Yes, Lewandowski is injured, but I still think Bayern are capable of scoring without him. You can back Over 3.5 Goals at 2.68/5.
Müller can make his mark
With Lewandowski out, there is even more pressure than usual on the irrepressible Thomas Müller to perform, and the numbers suggest that he will. Since the start of last season the Bavarian native has racked up an incredible 35 Bundesliga assists, including 14 in this campaign.
Müller scored twice in the reverse fixture, and you can back him to score at 2.8815/8, but I'll back him in the Anytime Assist market here at 3.412/5, which seems too big a price to ignore.
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