Heaven and Hell at RB Leipzig

In late summer, when the dreary November gray of these days could not be thought of, Jesse Marsch and Marco Rose met to play football together. The coaches from RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund were on the same team at a charity match. According to all that has been passed down about this kick, the former midfielder Marsch and the former defender Rose got along splendidly – on and off the field. You know and appreciate each other. Marsch inherited Rose two years ago as his successor in Salzburg. Those who were employed by the ideologically loyal RB branch in Austria usually have a similar view of the game.

On Saturday they will meet again, then Roses Dortmund will travel to the Leipzigers who have been trained by Marsch (6.30 p.m.). There is hardly any shortage of topics to talk about beyond the game. In their new clubs, both have to experience just how difficult it is to shape a team that is successful under the respective predecessor according to your own ideas. Fellow sufferers on different sides.

As far as the Bundesliga is concerned, Leipzig believes it is right on the right track. The team has been unbeaten for five games, scoring eleven points during this period. More than solid numbers. Marsch did not want to lose this fundamentally positive view of things even after the 2-2 draw against Paris Saint-Germain. “It’s a huge step for us to play so well against such an opponent,” he said. The enthusiasm may have been due to the late equalization with a penalty converted by Dominik Szoboszlai, but it was only half the story. Leipzig’s development is more like a sine curve with swings up and down.

The game served as evidence of the enormous potential that this team has, but also highlighted all of their inadequacies in a ruthless manner. Especially in the first half, the audience had to experience how seamlessly Leipzig can switch from Jekyll to Hyde mode. Coach Marsch wrested a deep sigh from the two faces of his team, which Rose and his Dortmunders should also be familiar with. “We make life difficult for ourselves in many moments, that makes my life very difficult,” he said.

What Marsch meant: Leipzig started out furiously, the pressing functioned as it did at the best of times among Marsch’s predecessors. The reward was the early 1-0 through Christopher Nkunku. The Frenchman scored for the sixth time in the Champions League and is in the shape of his life. This is much less the case with André Silva. The Portuguese, who was the second most successful striker in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt last year, wanted to face his sporting crisis from the penalty spot. Only his shot was as weak as his goal scoring in the Leipzig jersey, Italy’s European champion Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Paris goal parried without any problems. From one moment to the next, the Leipzig pressing machine was switched off. “I have to take responsibility for it. Before the game, I give two names when it comes to penalties. It was Emil Forsberg and André Silva. I said Emil would make the decision, but André had the confidence at that moment, ”said Marsch. Nobody wanted to deny that it was a scene of great influence on what happened next. “Sure, it helps if we score the second goal,” said Marsch.

Instead, Georginio Wijnaldum met with the first Paris attack to equalize and later to 1: 2. The way Leipzig fell into a deep, long phase of passivity was evidence of the lack of belief in one’s own strength and possibly also in the instructions of the coach. Instead of aggressively attacking the opponent like before the equalization, RB suddenly withdrew against their own nature, only put the opponents and, in the best case, provided escorts. That this attitude will be punished in the Champions League, the Leipzig had to learn against Bruges (1: 2). The Belgians are the only ones in Group A who could theoretically overtake Leipzig and thus still move into the Europa League. In the Champions League, RB only have two games.


Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch is not satisfied with the referee.
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Image: dpa

It also became apparent how much Leipzig lacks a dominant personality on the pitch, who excels as an organizing hand in critical phases. In this respect, the loss of captain Marcel Sabitzer outweighs the departures of defenders Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté.

Marsch was right when he said: “After the 1: 2 we were a bit lucky not to get the 1: 3.” A fourth Paris goal would have been easily possible, Leipzig’s defense initially seemed disoriented after Willi Orban’s replacement . Orban has muscular problems, said Marsch. “He’s definitely out for Dortmund.”

A hefty defeat was prevented by Mohamed Simakan, who rose to the position of defensive chief after Orban’s failure and who felt personally suppressed every Paris attack, as well as a late penalty whistle from Andreas Ekberg. When asked about the Swedish referee, the emotions passed with march. “It was as if he wanted Neymar’s autograph,” said Marsch, criticizing the alleged unequal treatment of the Parisians. It cannot be ruled out that the RB coach is threatened with an aftermath by the European association UEFA for the verbal scolding. That would fit in with a European Cup season that was screwed up from Leipzig’s point of view.

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