Formed less than ten years ago, hated by rival fans and clubs alike and only beaten once on league duty this season - Patrick McPartlin takes a look at Celtic’s Europa League opponents RB Leipzig
What’s the story behind RB Leipzig?
The German game is often held up as the ideal football model. The “50+1” rule prevents commercial interests from seizing control at German clubs - notable exceptions being Bayer Leverkusen, owned by the Bayer pharmaceutical firm, and the Volkswagen-owned VfL Wolfsburg.
SSV Markranstadt was a fifth-tier club based in Saxony, until RB Leipzig made an approach to establish a partnership. All seven founder-members of RB Leipzig were previously, or currently, employed by Red Bull.
The idea was that Markranstadt would provide the core for the new club as they attempted to gain a foothold in the German leagues. The company bought Markranstadt’s licence, changed its name, crest and kit and promised a reported transfer budget of €100 million.
The meteoric rise of RB Leipzig was about to begin, and so were the protests from rival fans and clubs, who felt that the club would do untold damage to the positive reputation the German game had enjoyed.
One factor driving the protests was how opponents viewed Leipzig’s approach to the 50+1 rule. While membership at other Bundesliga clubs tended to cost between €60 and €70 a year, gold membership at Leipzig cost an eyewatering €1,000 and even after German football chiefs forced the club to alter its membership structure to obtain a licence for the first division, the majority of the members were, unsurprisingly, employees or associates of Red Bull.
Towards the start of the 2016/17 season, Borussia Dortmund refused to grant permission for RB Leipzig to create half-and-half “friendship” scarves featuring both club logos while thousands of Dortmund supporters boycotted the fixture. That same year, Dynamo Dresden fans threw a severed bull’s head onto the pitch during a cup match.
Two years earlier, Union Berlin fans turned up in black ponchos, and held a 15-minute silence at the start of a league fixture in the German second tier.
It could be argued that Leipzig had the last laugh, as they finished third in their debut campaign in Germany’s top flight, and followed it up with a sixth-placed finish last season.
Why aren’t they named Red Bull Leipzig?
Red Bull run several football clubs, most notably Red Bull Salzburg, and MLS side New York Red Bulls. German football rules prevent clubs from being named after sponsors, so Red Bull named the new club RasenBallsport Leipzig (Lawn Ball Sports Leipzig). The official name is never used in marketing, with the club referred to as “RB Leipzig” or by its nickname - the Red Bulls - in a bid to circumvent the rules.
Who’s in charge?
Ralf Rangnick is in his second spell in charge, having initially taken on a joint role as Sporting Director for RB and Red Bull Salzburg in June 2012.
The 60-year-old had a modest playing career but has had spells managing Stuttgart, Schalke, Hoffenheim and Hannover. He oversaw 36 matches between May 2015 and May 2016, recording 21 wins, seven draws and eight defeats before returning in July 2018.
What sort of form are they in?
RB were unbeaten in Europa League qualifying, and although they lost 4-1 at Borussia Dortmund on the opening day of the season they are unbeaten since, with four wins and three draws.
Their only other loss came in the Europa League group match against Red Bull Salzburg. They were held to a goalless draw at Augsburg last weekend and are now fifth in the table, having been second.
Who are the danger men?
Germany international Timo Werner and Danish striker Yussuf Poulsen top the scoring charts, having each notched four goals in eight games. Still only 22, Werner has struck 46 times in 86 games for the Bundesliga side since arriving from VfB Stuttgart.
At the back, Dayot Upamecano has been scouted by Barcelona and was a target for Manchester United before he left Red Bull Salzburg for Leipzig. The 19-year-old has made 49 appearances for Rangnick’s side and was part of the France team that won the 2015 UEFA European Under-17 Championship. He currently plays alongside Celtic midfielder Olivier Ntcham for France Under-21s.
Another familiar face for Ntcham, and Odsonne Edouard, is 21-year-old forward Jean-Kevin Augustin, who has scored 11 goals in 37 appearances since joining from Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.
Other notable players include Austria midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, 28-times capped Slovenia international Kevin Kampl and Portugal forward Bruma, who netted against Scotland at Hampden.
Sweden international Emil Forsberg, who appeared at the 2018 World Cup, misses out through injury.