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Leipzig boss determined to hold onto stars

Berlin (AFP) – RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl says the challenge facing his side this season is to fend off bids for star duo Emil Forsberg and Naby Keita while coping with the demands of Champions League football.

The club were a sensation last season, finishing second behind Bayern Munich on their first campaign in Germany’s top flight to qualify directly for the Champions League group stage.

They open their 2017/18 Bundesliga season at Schalke on Saturday with the majority of their young squad intact having rejected an offer of £66 million (72m euros, $85m) for Guinea midfielder Keita from Liverpool.

“If Naby plays another season like the last one then the interest certainly won’t diminish,” Hassenhuettl told SID, an AFP subsidiary.

“As a coach, it doesn’t interest me what could happen next summer.

“If a coach wants to look a year down the line, he is better off checking he is still the coach,” he joked.

Likewise, Forsberg reportedly attracted interest from Manchester United and AC Milan after producing eight goals and a Bundesliga record of 22 assists last season.

The Swedish winger, 25, is set to miss the Schalke game due to a chest complaint, but Keita should play in Gelsenkirchen after recovering from a knee knock.

“For me it would be just as sensational if we repeated last year’s success (finishing second),” added Hasenhuettl, whose side will have to handle playing in three competitions this season.

“We have already heard prophecies from many sides, which never came true, so let us play for the first time (in three competitions) and then we can see how good we really are.

“Our game has become so varied that it’s becoming hard to categorise our type of football. What we want to offer is lively, power football.”

Hasenhuettl says the best chance for their rivals to loosen Bayern Munich’s iron-grip on the Bundesliga title is to hope Carlo Ancelotti’s side start making mistakes.

“It will only be possible in Germany to overthrow Bayern if they start to make mistakes, otherwise they are in a league of their own, and this will be the case this season,” he added.

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