The standout clash in the Bundesliga this weekend takes place on Sunday evening, with third-placed Bayer Leverkusen hosting fourth-placed RB Leipzig at the BayArena.
The outcome of this intriguing tie could well play a huge part in deciding who qualifies for next season’s Champions League, with the chasing pack looking to pounce on slip-ups from either of these sides.
Despite picking up seven points from the last nine on offer, Leverkusen head into this crucial game far from the exceptional form that they had showcased earlier in the campaign.
In those last three outings, Die Werkself narrowly saw off poor Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin sides before being held to a goalless draw at VfL Bochum last weekend, with just one win and four defeats in a poor six-game run preceding this spell.
Gerardo Seoane’s side were perhaps fortunate to come away with a point from the newly-promoted Bochum too, with plenty of nervy moments during an even encounter.
The season-ending injury to Florian Wirtz, and the ongoing injury problems for top goalscorer Patrik Schick, have been far from ideal, but Leverkusen have been nothing like the side that blew teams away in the opening weeks of the season and immediately after the winter break.
The hosts will have to be much improved if they are to pick up a positive result against their in-form opponents on Sunday, with a defeat meaning they would be leapfrogged in the table.
Fifth-placed Freiburg are also just four points behind at the time of writing, and with them playing a favourable fixture at home to Bochum on Saturday, Leverkusen’s advantage in the race for the top four could be slashed down to just one point come the end of the weekend.
Meanwhile, Leipzig seem to improve further and further under Domenico Tedesco as each week passes by, with a comfortable 3-0 win over top-four hopefuls Hoffenheim last weekend coming before their 2-0 win at Atalanta on Thursday evening.
That result saw Die Roten Bullen progress to the semi-finals of the Europa League courtesy of a 3-1 triumph on aggregate, and with a DFB-Pokal semi-final tie to come against Union Berlin on Wednesday, Sunday’s visitors continue to fight on three fronts in the closing stages of the campaign.
Much of the positivity this season has come under Tedesco, who replaced Jesse Marsch back in December, with the club enduring a humiliating exit at the Champions League group stage and struggling down in midtable in the Bundesliga before his arrival.
The 36-year-old boasts a remarkable record of 14 wins and just two defeats from his 21 games in charge across all competitions up to this point, with one of those losses coming in a narrow setback at Bayern Munich.
As a result of the fantastic turnaround, Leipzig head into matchday 30 in fourth place in the Bundesliga table, just one point and one place behind their hosts, so as mentioned above, victory would take them above Leverkusen and further strengthen their hold on a top-four spot, something that seemed so unlikely just a few months ago.
The in-form Christopher Nkunku, who has been heavily linked with Manchester United in recent weeks, has been at the centre of Leipzig’s success in all competitions.
The Frenchman has enjoyed a more advanced role under his new boss, with the 24-year-old netting a brace against Atalanta on Thursday to take his tally to 30 goals and 15 assists across 43 games this season, so he is likely to play a huge part in any success for Leipzig at the BayArena too.
Bayer Leverkusen Bundesliga form:
Bayer Leverkusen form (all competitions):
RB Leipzig Bundesliga form:
RB Leipzig form (all competitions):
We say: Bayer Leverkusen 1-3 RB Leipzig
This looks set to be an intriguing tie at the BayArena on Sunday, and it is one that could see two quality sides cancel each other out, or see a flurry of goals between two prolific attacking teams.
We are predicting the latter, with the visitors coming out on top after producing far more consistent displays over recent weeks and possessing the greater momentum thanks to some exceptional performances.