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Sport Jesse Marsch's RB Leipzig enter crucial stretch which could determine the American manager's future

16:35  16 october  2021
16:35  16 october  2021 Source:   cbssports.com

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It has not been an easy start to life for Jesse Marsch with RB Leipzig after his summer move from Salzburg to replace Julian Nagelsmann who joined German champions Bayern Munich with Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer in tow.

Jesse Marsch holding a microphone © Provided by CBS Sports

However, things are looking better of late in the Bundesliga than they were after a disastrous start with three losses from their opening four matches and Die Roten Bullen now find themselves looking upwards from ninth in the table heading into a key run of games.

Between now and the next international break in November, RBL will face Freiburg, Paris Saint-Germain (twice), Greuther Furth, Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund across the German topflight and the UEFA Champions League with Babelsberg in the Pokal thrown in for good measure.

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Depending on how you look at it, sitting six points behind pacesetters Bayern and Bayer Leverkusen is not disastrous as Marsch's men boast the third best goal difference in the league and one of the five best defenses.

While Leipzig might be trailing those two in attack, five goals in Leverkusen's case and nine in Bayern's, only Borussia Dortmund and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are more prolific, and that statistic is slightly skewed by the fact that Sebastian Hoeness' men surprisingly thumped Koln 5-0 on Friday. And the advanced stats are even more kind to Leipzig. Their 14.67 xG rank them third in in Germany and suggest that both Dortmund and Leverkusen (14.57 and 11.17) have gotten more scoring from fewer chances. A state of affairs which is unlikely to continue.

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Perhaps most telling is that RBL's defense is on par with Bayern and Leverkusen's (seven goals conceded) with only Saturday's opponents Freiburg and Red Bull alumni Bo Svensson's Mainz 05 tighter at the back (five goals each). Though on that side of the ball it is Marsch's team that have run hot with their 11.06 xG conceded suggesting that if they don't tighten up the ship those goals conceded will tick up before too long.

"We are really well set up in defense and can play with either a back three or a back four depending on what kind of opposition we are facing," said Marsch ahead of the Freiburg clash. "A lot of our players are very versatile, for example, Josko (Gvardiol) can play as a center back or at full back.

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"Konrad (Laimer) and Tyler (Adams) have also played in defense before. Willi (Orban) is a leader of the defense and Mohamed (Simakan) has a certain advantage due to having played a great season so far and played alongside Willi often. That has always worked well."

The domestic situation is not quite as disastrous as it might seem at first glance then but equally it is not where Leipzig expected to be after establishing themselves in Germany's top three in four of the past five seasons.

However, if we look at UEFA Champions League Group A, the early standings make for a sobering read with RBL rock bottom after two games and surprisingly three points behind Manchester City who blitzed them 6-3 in a breathtaking opening game at Etihad Stadium.

That free-for-all was followed by arguably the most concerning result of the campaign so far -- a 2-1 home loss to Club Brugge -- which now makes the doubleheader against a PSG side yet to hit their stride and still capable of beating City utterly imperative to Leipzig's UCL hopes.

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With all due respect to Brugge, nobody saw them taking four points from their two opening fixtures at home to PSG and away at Red Bull Arena and their early form and four-point lead over Marsch's troops at this early stage makes them favorites to at least drop into the UEFA Europa League.

Dropping out of Europe entirely, although perhaps useful in a domestic sense as they seek a return to the top end of the Bundesliga table, would be a massive setback for the ambitious American tactician and the Red bull-owned club.

"That is not an issue for us at the moment," said Marsch of RBL's continental concerns. "Our players know that they have to take a game-by-game approach. We are aware that our UCL campaign has not gone as well as we had hoped so far but the best preparation for next week's game is a win this weekend. That is what we are concentrating on."

Giving Leipzig hope heading into next week's clash with PSG at Parc des Princes is the form of ex-Parisien Christopher Nkunku who has undoubtedly been the star of this term so far in Saxony with nine goals and one assist from 10 appearances across all competitions.

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The fact that a minor knock to the 23-year-old in training created significant tension ahead of the trip to Freiburg speaks volumes about how important he is to the team at present with four of those ten goals in the Bundesliga, four more in Europe and another coming in the Pokal.

Nkunku is fit enough to feature this weekend at Europa Park Stadion and Marsch will hope that his star man comes through unscathed and can play a key role on his return to Paris, but it will require more than just the Frenchman to win in the capital next week.

The American will need to outthink opposite number Mauricio Pochettino and given the struggles the Argentine is enduring so far this season; this is a massive opportunity for Leipzig to undo some of the damage already done to their Champions League campaign.

Should Marsch and his players manage to pull that off, the situation will suddenly seem a lot brighter, and some significant pressure will be lifted. If not, then stronger scrutiny will follow -- especially given Matthias Jaissle's impressive start under the senior Red Bull umbrella with unbeaten Salzburg.

Make no mistake, this run of games has the potential to make or break Leipzig's season and potentially Marsch's tenure in Germany.

March and the football romance: Babelsberg «Absair" .
The pleasant Kulturschock would almost distracted Jesse March from the essential. The football romance in the narrow fourth league stadium of the SV Babelsberg 03 found the coach of RB Leipzig "cool" and "horny". But of course, the Americans very quickly knew that the entry into the third round of the DFB pokal was a matter of course, which did not change his basically difficult situation.

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