RB Leipzig and Wolfsburg both took necessary steps in the fight for European places as they each pulled out Saturday victories in Bundesliga play.
Leipzig, with Tyler Adams in the starting lineup, earned a 3-1 victory on the road at Stuttgart behind a brace from Yussuf Poulsen, while Marcel Sabitzer scored the decisive goal.
Notably for USMNT fans, Adams secured his first Bundesliga assist, feeding Poulsen for his second goal in the 74th minute to give Leipzig the two-goal advantage. Adams lept over right-back Andreas Beck on the flank and charged forward, eventually delivering a delicious ball for Poulsen on the break who, instead of feeding a wide-open Timo Werner right on the doorstep, took it himself under pressure and managed to slot the ball in past a charging Ron-Robert Zieler.
The win kept Leipzig to fourth in the Bundesliga table and drew them to within a point of third-place Borussia Monchengladbach. The victory was also critical given Wolfsburg, right behind them in fifth, also found a win with a 3-0 stomping of Mainz.
Wolfsburg midfielder Max Arnold scored his first goal of the season just four minutes in to put the hosts in front as young Florian Muller was very late to react in goal. They never looked back as Wout Weghorst bagged a penalty in the 69th minute and Robin Knoche finished things off 14 minutes from the final whistle. The win gave the hosts more life in the race for the final Champions League spot, keeping them five points back of Leipzig.
Hoffenheim also rode an early goal to a 3-0 win, topping Hannover at home to remain in the race for a European position. Brazilian youngster Joelinton was the man to put the hosts in front early on, scoring just four minutes in on a breakaway with a shot through the legs of a charging Michael Esser. Ishak Belfodil doubled the lead in the 14th minute, and Kerem Demirbay left no doubt with a late cherry on top. The win put Hoffenheim in seventh, level on 33 points with Eintracht Frankfurt above them and Bayer Leverkusen below them.
Hertha Berlin slumped to a 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen thanks to a 96th minute Claudio Pizarro goal to make him the Bundesliga’s oldest-ever goalscorer. Schalke and Freiburg both fell to 10 men as the two played to a 0-0 draw.
Honest Christian (TM) will tell us if we’re wrong, but the American teen star scored one heck of a goal on Sunday and it was 100% on purpose.
Christian Pulisic bagged the opener against Stuttgart when he caught ex-Leicester keeper Ron-Robert Zieler off his line and drifted a shot into the side netting from well outside standard shooting range.
Some have asked whether the 19-year-old Pennsylvanian meant the shot and we firmly say, “Yes.”
This is a bold statement given the potential league-shaking moves made by the Premier League’s biggest clubs, but there may be no more intriguing story to follow in the league this season than Leicester City.
A club that won the title two years ago struggled with relegation fears during its reign, but also went deep into the UEFA Champions League and genuinely did look like a Top Six team by the time it found an appropriate replacement for N'Golo Kante in the form of Wilfried Ndidi.
Could they rival the top teams for another surprise — granted not as dramatic and high-end — season close to the top of England’s top flight?
Best, worst case scenarios – The worst case scenario sees Riyad Mahrez, Demarai Gray, and Danny Drinkwater leave and a brutal early slate sending them well behind the pack. Then, it sees Shakespeare over his skis the first time he has to clean up a mess under his watch, leaving Leicester with another midseason adjustment en route to a relegation battle and, subsequently, relegation.
That’s highly unlikely, though, and provided the Foxes keep Drinkwater and Ndidi continues his form, Leicester should be comfortably midtable. In terms of best case, Harry Maguire is the antidote to the aging back line, Iheanacho combines with Vardy to be a lethal force, and the Foxes either claims the League or FA Cup, or edge an overwhelmed bigger name for a Top Seven spot and the Europa League.
Star player: Wilfried Ndidi — Transitioning to the Premier League from the Jupiler Pro League took about a month for the Nigerian, who saw Leicester go 0-5 with no goals scored to start life in England, but the Foxes promptly won five-straight and Ndidi was no small part of it. He won 3.5 aerial duels per match, while averaging four tackles, 2.1 interceptions, and 3.2 clearances in front of a surprisingly suspect back line while leading the team in dribbles per match with 1.8.
Coaches’ Corner:Craig Shakespeare — Taking over for Claudio Ranieri was surprisingly simple for the Birmingham-born 53-year-old, who took his 1-0 record as West Brom caretaker boss from 2006 and improved it to 9W-3L-5D all-time. It took until well after the season for Shakespeare to be crowned Ranieri’s permanent replacement, and he has a three-year deal to show his stuff at the King Power Stadium. We’ve seen he can clean up a messy side. Now we’ll see if he can set up a side to thrive in the top flight.
PST predicts: A fair share of bumps in the road, but the Maguire and Iborra buys show that the Leicester eyes for talent remain pretty sharp. A comfortable-enough midtable finish in the end, though don’t be surprised if alarm bells ring early: Four of Leicester’s first six matches are against Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea, and the first two are away. Getting six points from the other two, versus new boys Brighton and Huddersfield, will be key to avoiding an early season rut.