RB Leipzig face battle for Champions League berth

RB Leipzig were the primary challengers to Bayern Munich in the 2016-17 Bundesliga season, and this term face a battle for a Champions League berth.

RB Leipzig were the primary challengers to Bayern Munich in the 2016-17 Bundesliga season. Ralph Hassenhuttl's men topped the league for a three-match period after a fine start to the campaign. However, the imperious nature of Bayern's form loomed large and they were able to pull away from Die Bullen in the second half of the term to claim their fifth straight crown.

However, the season was still a success for Leipzig in their maiden campaign in the top tier of German football. They secured Champions League football by virtue of their second-place finish ‚Äď a fine reward for an impressive term. They continued to spend in the transfer market to bolster their squad ahead of their first experience of European football. Hassenhuttl's men added Bruma, Jean-Kevin Augustin and Kevin Kampl to the fold, bringing further quality to the team.

The new campaign got off to the worse possible start with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Schalke. Leipzig's momentum was stymied in the early stages, leaving them off the pace of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern at the top of the table. Die Bullen found their stride, with a four-game winning streak, including a 3-2 win over Dortmund on the road. However, a loss against Bayern stopped their surge in October and since then, Hassenhuttl's men have not managed to string together a series of results to solidify a Champions League spot next term.

Their first run in the Champions League ended in disappointment, finishing third in Group G even though there was not an elite team present. The club put forward an outstanding performance to defeat Napoli in the Europa League, advancing to the round of 16, although they were hanging on in the second leg, losing 2-0 on home soil.

Hassenhuttl's side could still qualify again for the Champions League through the Europa League, although their best hope will be securing a top-four place in the Bundesliga. Leipzig are backed in the latest Bundesliga betting odds at 8/11 to secure fourth place or above, although they will have to improve their level of form at both ends of the pitch.

Goals have been the issue for the club this term, scoring only 37 in their 24 matches to date. Timo Werner has continued to thrive, breaking double figures, though has failed to fire in his last five matches. Given the lack of goals from elsewhere in the side, Leipzig cannot afford to have their main man. Augustin is next on the list with five strikes, while Naby Keita has four to his name. Leipzig have a youthful attack, and consistency can be an issue with players still adjusting to the top flight.

As a result, the club have to be stronger at the back. They have kept only five clean sheets in the Bundesliga and they are in the middle of the pack in terms of goals conceded. Dayotchanculle Upamecano has shown promise in the heart of the defence at the age of 19. Hassenhuttl needs more from the experienced players in his team, especially Willi Orban, to ensure that his side are solid at the back until the end of the campaign.

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