Leipzig and Rose bereft of answers as Stuttgart’s daydream sweeps on

Photograph: Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images

August seems like a long time ago. On the balmy evening on which Harry Kane was introduced to an ecstatic Allianz Arena, it was actually RB Leipzig that ran the show, and how.

Back then the newly-arrived Xavi Simons had been dumbfounding his new fans with just how good he was, leaving Germany’s biggest club wondering why they didn’t have a player like that and leaving, perhaps, Paris Saint-Germain wondering why they hadn’t held on to him rather than sending him on loan. Since that impressive Supercup display from Leipizig, their Netherlands midfielder has spent much of the season doing a passable impression of being the best player in the Bundesliga, or close enough. Yet on Saturday, at direct rivals in Stuttgart, they had to do without him, banned for receiving a fifth yellow card of the season against Leverkusen. And this game was all about dealing with the personnel hand you’d been dealt – or not, as the case may be.

The home side had their own major absence to deal with, but their response was emphatic. Stuttgart have been this season’s gatecrashers to the top four and were still in a Champions League place at kick-off despite successive defeats breeding the sense that they were experiencing a bit of overdue levelling out in their season. Instead, they sent Leipzig home with their tails between their legs, having claimed a first win since top scorer Serhou Guirassy left for the Africa Cup of Nations, propelled instead by Deniz Undav’s hat-trick. There had been hints before that the on-loan Brighton striker’s goals could see them through, particularly during the period when the Guinean was sidelined with a hamstring injury in autumn. The fact remained that without Guirassy in the Bundesliga this season, Stuttgart’s record was played four, lost four. This broke that sequence in spectacular style.

Some might have wondered if the silent opening minutes of the game, as part of the latest supporter protest against private equity investment in the Bundesliga, might have suited the visiting team. Yet, like a driver frustrated by roadworks on the freeway being suddenly released from that obligation, the Cannstatter Kurve roared as their time to hold fire came to an end, and Leipzig were under the pump. The 5-2 scoreline did not in any way flatter Sebastian Hoeness’s side.

So while the coach and his Stuttgart team can continue to enjoy a pressure-free, playing-with-house-money second half of the season, far away from their typical battles against the drop, Leipzig face a completely contrasting scenario. There are days when they can look like the best team in the Bundesliga. Here, they were a rabble. Champions League qualification is a bare minimum, rather than the delightful daydream it is for Stuttgart. This, a third straight Bundesliga defeat in 2024, saw Leipzig drop out of the top four. Marco Rose, Leipzig-born-and-bred and coaching-wise a graduate of the Red Bull school, has seemed like the perfect fit since arriving in 2022, but the contract extension he signed in July won’t fool him. He must turn this around quickly, as previous incumbents like Jesse Marsch and Domenico Tedesco could tell him. This is a club that runs holistically but burns intensely with ambition.

The raw materials are certainly there for Rose. Benjamin Sesko shows signs of being able to do for Leipzig what Undav can for their opponents. His header, to bring RB back into the game in the first half, was one of those to make you believe he could be unstoppable, rising effortlessly to power home David Raum’s delivery. The young Slovenian Sesko, however, is just learning. Undav’s composure is more than just confidence, marking him out as someone who could be key for Germany in Euro 2024. There is a growing belief that he is the most natural German-qualified finisher in the league right now.

Leipzig have someone just as prolific in Loïs Openda, who briefly dragged them back into this game with his 13th goal of the Bundesliga season, but they need more. Rose told Sky afterwards the key to results “is all in our heads”. He knows his team need to clarify those thoughts with urgency. A club that is always in a hurry to progress has never accepted suggestions of transitional seasons or development phases – and won’t start now.

Dortmund 3-1 Bochum, Union Berlin 1-0 Darmstadt, Leverkusen 0-0 Mönchengladbach, Augsburg 2-3 Bayern, Hoffenheim 1-1 Heidenheim, Stuttgart 5-2 RB Leipzig, Werder Bremen 3-1 Freiburg, Wolfsburg 1-1 Cologne, Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0 Mainz.

Talking points

• Bayern Munich’s week has been a satisfying if exacting one, with Saturday’s difficult 3-2 win at Augsburg closing the gap to the summit to two points after Wednesday night’s game in hand, a 1-0 victory over Union Berlin. There were positives for Thomas Tuchel and company, including a first Bundesliga goal for the increasingly impressive teenage midfielder Aleksandar Pavlovic and a first of the season for Alphonso Davies.

Harry Kane’s goal, which ultimately turned out to be the winner, was his 23rd in the league and ended a (gasp!) two-game goalless run. Less welcome was a first-half injury to Kingsley Coman’s knee, which Tuchel estimates will keep the France winger out “for a while”. Bayern did at least reinforce a real area of need, confirming the signing of Coman’s compatriot Sacha Boey, the right-back from Galatasaray, for an initial €30m. Raphaël Guerreiro, the match-winner against Union, had been deployed as an emergency substitute in the position at Augsburg.

• In perhaps the most Bayernesque scenario of recent times, the not-quite-firing champions made up a couple more points on leaders Leverkusen, who could only manage a goalless draw at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach despite an almost ludicrous level of domination, having their highest number of shots at goal in a game for two years and completing their highest number of passes in a match for four years. The subsequent loan signing of Spain striker Borja Iglesias from Betis should be a help to some of those conversion issues.

• At the bottom, Union grabbed a vital win after that midweek loss, with a Benedict Hollerbach goal defeating bottom team Darmstadt, though with no great style. Eyes were more focused off the pitch, with coach Nenad Bjelica in president Dirk Zingler’s executive box for the game, suspended after his red card for shoving Leroy Sané in the face (twice) in Munich. Bjelica’s joint assistants Danijel Jumic (as head coach) and Marie-Louise Eta (on media duties) took charge of the game and will continue to do so in the remaining two games of his ban, while the issue threatens to simmer on; multiple reports have suggested that several players have expressed their surprise to the board that Bjelica was allowed to keep his job.

• Talking of not winning style points, Borussia Dortmund moved into the top four with a third straight win in 2024, but made heavy weather of beating Bochum in the “Little Derby”. A Niclas Füllkrug treble, including two penalties, did the job after an avoidable own goal by Nico Schlotterbeck had invited the impressive visitors back into the game. The mood in the BVB camp is a realistic one, with more improvement clearly needed but the run of wins against “exactly the sort of opponents we had problems against” nothing to be sniffed at, as Füllkrug was keen to point out.







Bayer Leverkusen


Bayern Munich




Borussia Dortmund


RB Leipzig


Eintracht Frankfurt






Werder Bremen






Borussia M’gladbach




VfL Bochum


Union Berlin








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