Werder Bremen v RB Leipzig
In the final matchday before the domestic season pauses for the World Cup, RB Leipzig (5th) make the long trip across Germany as they look to extend their unbeaten run against Werder Bremen (7th). With a win, Marco Rose’s side could find themselves in a Champions League spot, something that was unthinkable just two months ago. Just four points separate the two teams and following their promotion from the 2. Bundesliga, Bremen have also surprised many.
The biggest news this past week coming out of Leipzig is that Timo Werner would miss the remainder of 2022, and therefore the World Cup. That prompted Rose to change from his 4-2-3-1 to a 4-2-2-2 against Freiburg in midweek. Against Freiburg’s back five, Leipzig created 14 chances, converting 3 and we could see something similar on Saturday against Bremen’s preferred 5-3-2. The absence of Werner has allowed Christopher Nkunku, the Bundesliga’s top scorer with 12 goals, to play alongside Andre Silva, with Dani Olmo and Dominick Szoboszlai behind the duo. Although 4th, only four teams have conceded less than Bremen’s 25 goals. Unbeaten in 12 with 10 wins and two draws across all competitions, Rose’s Leipzig are also scoring for fun with 15 goals in their last three.
On Tuesday night, Bremen were completely outplayed by leaders Bayern Munich, losing 6-1. They created just one chance, but Anthony Jung took it. In their last three games, Bremen have had a combined xG of 4.7 and have scored four goals. With Niclas Füllkrug, the highest-scoring German in the Bundesliga this season, Bremen are clinical in the final third. Only RB Leipzig (28), Frankfurt (31) and Bayern (47) have scored more than Bremen (24) – it’s their defence that lets them down.
When it comes to creating chances, only Bayern (12) average more than Leipzig (8) per 90. With Nkunku, Olmo and Szoboszlai, Leipzig have three technically-gifted players who could potentially push Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern for the Bundesliga title this season, especially when considering the drop in form from both Borussia Dortmund and Union Berlin. Leipzig average 5.8 shots on target per 90 and so Jiri Pavlenka will be in for a busy afternoon. Leipzig don’t look like slowing down and you would expect them to pick up three points in Bremen on Saturday.
Bayer Leverkusen v Stuttgart
After a turbulent first couple of weeks under Xabi Alonso, Bayer Leverkusen are finally finding their stride under the Spaniard. When they host Stuttgart on Saturday afternoon, they will look to make it three successive Bundesliga wins after beating leaders at the time Union Berlin, and Cologne. Leverkusen’s recent results has moved the club away from the relegation zone and Alonso will want to make sure that his side end the year on a high after spending much of the 2022/23 campaign in the bottom two. They host Stuttgart, who are winless away from home this season.
From a 4-2-3-1 under Gerardo Seoane to a 3-4-3 under Alonso, two players that have benefitted from this system is Moussa Diaby and Jeremie Frimpong. The former had a standout campaign last season but struggled in the early parts of the current season but has scored five in his last six games across all competitions. The Frenchman’s new role allows him to roam freely in attack without the adding task of carrying out his defensive responsibilities. Playing wing-back, Frimpong has also been given license to roam forward and provides a threat from the wide areas, where Diaby would have been under Seoane. In their last three matches, Leverkusen are outperforming their xG (3.9) with 7 goals across all competitions, converting 44% of their chances (16).
Just one point behind Leverkusen is Stuttgart. A win last weekend against Hertha Berlin has also moved them clear of the relegation zone but they’ve lost their last three successive Bundesliga games. They will also be without Kostas Mavropanos for Saturday’s game after the Greek defender picked up his fifth yellow card of the season. He’s won 64% of his tackles this season and has made 132 interceptions, second to Waldemar Anton. They’ve only allowed their opponents and xG of 3.3 across their last three games but Bayer Leverkusen have been clinical of late.
Bayer Leverkusen have scored at least two goals in four of their last five home games in the Bundesliga and against a Stuttgart side without their best defender, expect Diaby and Co. to capitalise. They will however likely be without Patrik Schick again but Adam Hložek has stepped up. Expect goals on Saturday but in favour of Leverkusen, who can end their 2022 in a good position.
Freiburg v Union Berlin
Heading into the final matchday before the World Cup, Freiburg and Union Berlin are on level points, and just four behind leaders Bayern Munich. Both teams have provided Bundesliga fans with quite the story this campaign. Working on a minimal budget, few predicted that they would be in the position they’re in given their involvement in European football with small squads and matches every three or four days. But come the final game of 2022, here they are.
Both have a near identical record (8 wins, 3 draws and 3 defeats). Union hold a +2 goal difference over Freiburg, but are starting to falter of late. They travel to Freiburg with just one win in their last four Bundesliga games. They were thumped 5-0 by Bayer Leverkusen last weekend before a 2-2 draw against Augsburg in midweek, despite leading on two occasions. Freiburg, although losing 3-1 to RB Leipzig on Wednesday, had three successive wins prior to that.
Whilst Union are outperforming their xG (16) by a considerable margin with 23 goals, Freiburg are almost on par with 21 goals from an xG of 24. Union are converting 30% of their chances, second to only Augsburg (31%) and with Sheraldo Becker and Jordan Pefok in attack, they work in tandem – impressive for a new strike partnership formed in the summer. The only downside to Union’s impressive counter-attacking football if they concede first, they struggle to execute their gameplan, as shown by their defeats against Bayer Leverkusen (5-0) and Bochum (2-1) – two clubs that, at the time, had struggled for a win all season.
Freiburg meanwhile like a clean sheet. Prior to Wednesday’s defeat at Leipzig, they have three successive 2-0 wins. Attacking-midfielder Vincenzo Grifo has been in excellent form this season with six goals and two assists in 14 Bundesliga games. Michael Gregoritsch also provides an aerial threat in the box and is Freiburg’s top scorer with nine goals across all competitions. Behind the Austrian, the trio of Grifo, Ritsu Doan and Roland Sallai proves troublesome.
Both teams will want to win this to keep up with Bayern Munich heading into 2023 but avoiding defeat is key here, which is why both teams could cancel each other out. A 1-1 draw seems like a likely outcome, but either team could snatch a win and so odds of 1.87 for both teams to score this weekend represents good value.
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