Preview: RB Leipzig vs. Hoffenheim

Preview: RB Leipzig vs. Hoffenheim

Matchday 29 in the Bundesliga concludes with a huge clash between two sides chasing European football for next season, with RB Leipzig hosting Hoffenheim at the Red Bull Arena.

The hosts extended their unbeaten run by coming from behind to pick up a draw against Atalanta in the Europa League in midweek, whilst the visitors’ recent drop in form continued with a shock defeat in the league last weekend.

After struggling for much of the first half against Atalanta on Monday evening, which saw them fall behind courtesy of Luis Muriel’s goal, Leipzig were a much-improved outfit in the second 45.

Following Andre Silva’s missed penalty just before the hour mark, Die Roten Bullen were fortunate that Davide Zappacosta turned the ball past his own goalkeeper immediately after the penalty miss to pull them level on the night.

Several glorious opportunities were missed during the second half but Domenico Tedesco’s side had to settle for a 1-1 draw ahead of the second leg in their quarter-finals tie in Italy next week.

Attentions must quickly return to the Bundesliga now though, where Leipzig continued their impressive form in 2022 by thrashing second-placed Borussia Dortmund 4-1 at Signal Iduna Park last weekend.

Konrad Laimer netted a first-half brace, Christopher Nkunku got his 27th goal of the campaign, and despite Donyell Malen pulling back a late consolation, Dani Olmo sealed a thoroughly deserved victory over their title-challenging hosts.

That win, and the draw on Thursday, have seen Leipzig extend their unbeaten run to 11 matches across all competitions, which has helped the Red Bull outfit shake off their poor start to the season to climb to fourth in the Bundesliga table at the time of writing, largely thanks to the arrival of Tedesco shortly before Christmas.
A three-point gap was opened up over Freiburg down in fifth thanks to their defeat on matchday 28, so Tedesco and his side have their quest for another top-four finish come May firmly in their control thanks to the turnaround.

Whilst the hosts continue to climb, the visitors have continued to see their hopes of Champions League qualification fade away in recent weeks.

Holding Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw a month ago was an excellent result for Sebastian Hoeness’ side, but disappointing back-to-back defeats against relegation-threatened sides mean that Hoffenheim head into their trip to the Red Bull Arena on a three-game winless run.

After being heavily beaten by a poor Hertha Berlin side 3-0 before the international break, Sunday’s visitors returned with another setback when they hosted VfL Bochum at the PreZero Arena last weekend.

An awful start to the match saw Die Kraichgauer deservedly fall behind midway through the first half, and although a response would have been expected by the returning supporters at home, Hoeness’ men were fortunate to head into the break just one goal behind.

Although David Raum equalised shortly after half time to pull them level, Hoffenheim continued to struggle and found themselves behind once more just five minutes later, and an improved second-half display counted for nothing as they fell to a 2-1 defeat.

As a result, Hoffenheim come into matchday 29 in sixth place in the table, with a four-point gap now being opened up between themselves and their hosts on Sunday in the final Champions League spot.

Defeat at the Red Bull Arena would surely end their hopes of a top-four finish, but an unlikely victory would reduce the deficit just to one point ahead of the final five games, so Hoffenheim are certainly not out of the race just yet.

RB Leipzig Bundesliga form:
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RB Leipzig form (all competitions):
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Hoffenheim Bundesliga form:
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We say: RB Leipzig 3-1 Hoffenheim
With Leipzig and Hoffenheim heading in opposite directions of late, a comfortable victory for the hosts is expected at the Red Bull Arena on Sunday.

The home side have been unstoppable for much of this calendar year so far, and with them boasting home advantage, and Hoffenheim missing several players, they should have no problem seeing off their opponents to strengthen their hold on a top-four spot.

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