Leipzig (Germany) (AFP) – RB Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi says head coach Julian Nagelsmann was right to question his players’ desire in the Bundesliga title race, just before they face rivals Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayern Munich in quick succession.
Leipzig’s lead over Bayern at the top was slashed to a single point last Saturday after they went down 2-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt, their first defeat in any competition since October.
Nagelsmann, their 32-year-old coach, responded to a disappointing performance by questioning whether his team has the right mentality to win the league for the first time in the club’s short history, calling them “still far from being a top team”.
“We need to decide whether or not we push towards the title, or whether we stay here, have something to eat and drink, and fall back into the pack,” he added.
Leipzig host third-placed Gladbach on Saturday, with a trip to face defending champions Bayern coming up next weekend.
“If you are completely honest, the coach was right,” Hungarian shot-stopper Gulacsi told AFP in Leipzig.
“We hadn’t implemented everything as we had discussed it during the week,” before the Frankfurt defeat.
“The coach chose the right moment, it was important, and right, to get the team fired up before this important phase against Moenchengladbach and Bayern.”
Leipzig entertain a Gladbach side sitting two points back in the title race, and any slip could let in Bayern, who face strugglers Mainz away on Saturday.
“We want a reaction. We want to bounce back, we want to show we have character,” said the 29-year-old Gulacsi, once on the books at Liverpool.
Leipzig won 3-1 away when the sides last met in August, but Gulacsi is wary of the threat posed by their attack, not least impressive French striker Alassane Plea.
“Their forward line has great speed and physical attributes, it’s going to be a difficult game, but we are ready and want the three points at home.”
Following the Frankfurt defeat, Leipzig’s stars were slammed by senior club figure Ralf Rangnick after a celebrity hairdresser flew over from England to give a group of players pre-match trims.
“After a game like that, it looks a bit unfortunate,” Gulacsi admitted. “But the matter had no direct impact on the game and each player must know what he needs to get his best performance the next day.”
After facing Gladbach and Bayern, Leipzig, who were only founded in 2009, play their first ever Champions League knock-out tie against Tottenham Hotspur, with the first leg in London on February 19.
“This is a big test and opportunity for us, these are important games to send a signal to our rivals,” said Gulacsi.
“This is what you look forward to — playing for the best places in the league and, to stay top, you have to beat your rivals.
“In the Champions League, these are the games we have been fighting to play in.”
One to watch: Erling Braut Haaland
After he scored five goals in his first two Borussia Dortmund appearances, German bookmakers are offering short odds on the ‘wunderkind’ scoring more goals on his own than Saturday’s opponents Union Berlin.
The 19-year-old scored twice off the bench in last Friday’s 5-1 trouncing of Cologne after claiming a hat-trick on his debut as a substitute in the 5-3 win at Augsburg.
“I just have to keep training and get into even better shape,” he warned after last week’s game.
59 – The number of minutes Haaland has needed to score his five Bundesliga goals.
21 – The number of league goals scored by Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski. At the same point in 2015/16, when he netted a career-best 30 goals, the Pole had a mere 17.
24 – The combined tally of league goals scored by Gladbach’s attack of Plea, Breel Embolo, Patrick Herrmann and Marcus Thuram.
Fixtures (times 1430 GMT unless stated)
Hertha Berlin v Schalke (1930)
Borussia Dortmund v Union Berlin, Hoffenheim v Bayer Leverkusen, Fortuna Duesseldorf v Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz v Bayern Munich, Augsburg v Werder Bremen, RB Leipzig v Borussia Moenchengladbach (1730)
Cologne v Freiburg, Paderborn v Wolfsburg (1700)
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