While most Bundesliga clubs have another month to finalize plans, RB Leipzig must start again on Thursday. After making their European debut last term, the Red Bulls now face BK Häcken in a Europa League qualifier.The end of July is usually a time when sides are working on the training ground to improve fitness, tweak tactics and integrate new signings, but there will be no such luxury for RB Leipzig this season.
After a close season that’s seen the departure of Ralph Hasenhüttl, who led his charges to the Champions League and then the Europa League last term, Ralf Rangnick is back in the hot seat, having agreed to re-take the reins for a season until the arrival of Julian Nagelsmann for the 2019/20 season. Rangnick performed a similar locum job in 2015-16 when he took the heavily-backed club up to the top flight.
But his task this time round appears much tougher. After finishing 2nd in their debut European campaign, Leipzig struggled for consistency last time round, losing 11 games to end up 6th. Hence Thursday’s clash against Swedish side BK Häcken, who finished last season’s league campaign in 4th.
Eyes on the opposition
“We’ve been observing Häcken. We know what to expect and we are well aware that they have already begun playing competitive league football this season,” said Ragnick on Wednesday, referring to the 2018 Allsvenskan, where Häcken sit 10th after 14 games.
“We know they’re a team with a lot of good players, particularly up front. Paulinho for example is one of these high quality attacking players.”
But the Brazilian forward isn’t the only danger for Leipzig, according to Rangnick: “We’re experiencing some very high temperatures, so we need to make sure we prepare well and take our chances.” The temperatures in Leipzig are expected to peak at 35 degrees celsius (95 Farenheit) on Thursday, though should cool a little by kick off at 18:30 local time.
New faces may get debuts
The 60-year-old boss also said he will be without Dayot Upamecano and Konrad Laimer on Thursday, with both currently suffering from minor injuries.
The match may provide RB fans the chance to see a few new faces. Rangnick’s side have continued their youth-focused transfer policy, bringing in French right back Nordi Mukiele (20), Brazilian forward Matheus Cunha (19) and Argentinian left back Marcelo Saracchi (20) for a combined fee of about €44 million. Naby Keita has left the club for Liverpool while Bernardo has also exited, for fellow Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion, while Ademola Lookman, who impressed on loan from Everton last season, could be on his way back.
Should Leipzig get past Häcken they will face Romanian side Universitatea Craiova in the third qualifying round, then a two-legged playoff fixture before they reach the group stage. In total, the Red Bulls will have to play 21 matches to win the competition.