RB Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt Preview: Two surprise packages meet as hosts look to make ground on league leaders

RB Leipzig vs Eintracht Frankfurt Preview: Two surprise packages meet as hosts look to make ground on league leaders

Tomorrow's match sees second meet fourth in a game that most fans would have expected to be a relegation six-pointer at the start of the season.

Jack McGraghan

Saturday evening sees a clash at the top of the Bundesliga table between two teams that no fans of German football will have expected prior to the season starting, as newly promoted RB Leipzig face Eintracht Frankfurt who only avoided relegation via the play-off against 1. FC Nürnberg last season.

The hosts remain three points behind league leaders Bayern Munich following the winter break, and they will be hoping that SC Freiburg can do them a favour in tonight's game by causing an upset against Carlo Ancelotti's dominant Bavarians.

Frankfurt meanwhile will be aiming to avoid losing at the very least in order to avoid dropping to as far as sixth place if both Hoffenheim and Dortmund are victorious in their fixtures this weekend.

Leipzig hoping their success story will continue during the second half of the season

Ralph Hasenhüttl's side suffered their first two losses of the season just before the winter break, succumbing to 1-0 and 3-0 defeats away to Ingolstadt and Bayern Munich respectively which saw them lose their place on the top of the Bundesliga table with the latter now holding pole position in the title race.

Leipzig took part in three friendlies over the break against opponents of varying difficulty and although an initial 5-1 pummeling at the hands of Eredivisie outfit Ajax served as a shock to the system, Hasenhüttl's men regrouped and won 6-0 and 4-0 against SC Farense and Rangers respectively.

Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg have undoubtedly been the main source of goals and creativity in the Leipzig attack so far, with the former bagging nine goals whilst the Swede currently has eight league assists to his name in addition to five goals for himself.

Keeping players such as those two as well as other top performers such as Naby Keita and Willi Orban fit and on top form is the priority for Hasenhüttl, who will face a different challenge in the latter stages of the season with teams now well aware of the threat his side possesses.

Frankfurt will be looking to make tomorrow a frustrating evening for the hosts.

Frankfurt's surprise performances show a stark contrast to last season's exploits

It seems that Die Adler have learned from the mistakes of the 2015/16 season, in which they narrowly avoided relegation thanks to a 1-0 aggregate victory over 2.Bundesliga side Nurnberg in the relegation play-off, as they are now flying high and sit in fourth place in the Bundesliga standings.

Niko Kovač's men have the second best defensive record in the league behind Bayern Munich, and it is that resoluteness that has seen them turn their fortunes around to allow their fans to seriously think about playing European football next season, provided they continue where they left off.

They are certainly a much tougher side to face than they were last season when they conceded 52 goals over the course of the entire campaign, not forgetting that they were also the third lowest scoring team in the division although it is undoubtedly their backline that has seen them rise up the table this time around.

Their three losses in the league so far have all been away from home and via 1-0 scorelines, so don't expect Kovač's side to roll over at the Red Bull Arena tomorrow evening.

Frankfurt's sole friendly over the winter break came one week ago and resulted in a scoreless draw with Russian side Zenit St Petersburg, so the hosts have had a little more match practice than the visitors in the last month or so, but will that prove to be a factor in the result tomorrow?

Alexander Meier is as ever a key figure in Frankfurt's attack and is their top scorer with four goals and one assist to his name, so despite not quite hitting the heights of the 19 he netted two seasons ago it would still be a huge loss were Kovač to lose him.

Team news

Leipzig have two definite absentees from the squad for tomorrow's game, with Lukas Klostermann out due to injury whilst star man Forsberg is suspended after he was shown a red card in the 3-0 defeat to Bayern on December 22.

Midfielder Keita is a doubt for the match and could be replaced by Stefan Ilsanker in the centre of the park should he be unable to take part tomorrow evening.

Frankfurt have a fair few injury problems to contend with that will no doubt be giving Kovač a headache with Taleb Tawatha, Szabolcs Huszti and the influential attacking midfielder Marco Fabian amongst the definite absentees tomorrow.

Guillermo Varela, Marco Russ and Danny Blum are doubtful and it will remain to be seen whether they make the squad, with fans left waiting until the teams are announced to discover their respective situations.

Predicted line-ups

RB Leipzig (4-4-2): Gulacsi; Bernardo, Orban, Compper, Halstenberg; Sabitzer, Demme, Ilsanker, Kaiser; Poulsen, Werner.

Eintracht Frankfurt (3-4-1-2): Hradecky; Abraham, Hector, Vallejo; Chandler, Mascarelli, Hasebe, Oczipka; Gacinovic; Meier, Hrgota.