Wondering what to expect as Aston Villa take on RB Leipzig? Wonder no more – we’ve got you covered with our new feature, the ‘Complete Preview’.
As Aston Villa prepare for their final pre-season game against Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig, we’re launching our latest feature, the ‘Complete Preview’ – where we look at things like opposition style of play, tactics, formations and more.
Each major game you can expect to see one of these previews, accompanied by a gorgeous piece of artwork by our resident illustrator, @DanieIHardman.
Aston Villa will face their hardest test of pre-season as they arrive at the Leipzig Red Bull Arena on Saturday Afternoon. In forecast humid and wet conditions, it’s not going to be a walk in the park for the new Premier League side – exactly what we want as a final game before the first game of the season against Tottenham Hotpsur.
RB Leipzig are a Champions League team, with Champions League talent amongst their ranks – which is exactly why they’re within shouting distance of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund at the head of the Bundesliga table.
Ultimately, whilst the result won’t matter, it provides a great opportunity for Dean Smith to stretch his now bulging squad against a team that is, on paper, stronger than his. This is something new – something that was not really the case in the Sky Bet Championship.
How will Leipzig Prove to be a Test for Aston Villa?
The Formation for Perfect Aggression
RB Leipzig have climbed through the ranks of the German football leagues whilst developing and honing an incredibly aggressive style of direct football. This helps to create dangerous opportunities against their opponents.
Their formation is very much like a 4-2-2-2, exceedingly narrow and forming a circle of midfielders and attackers in the middle of the pitch.
This ‘circle’ of players run in unison, chasing the ball to close down the opposition’s midfield and win back the ball. This pressure often works, at which point RB Leipzig unleash their most effective tactic – their renowned counter attack.
The side’s midfield and strikers are adept at judging when a turnover is likely to happen, and when and where they need to run to exploit the attacking phase.
Expect to see Leipzig’s players start sprinting almost before they’ve won the ball back, pre-empting the change in situation and attempting to catch Aston Villa’s defenders off guard.
Their attacking play, featuring the lightning duo of Timo Werner (pictured) and the more physical Yussuf Poulsen is red hot. Although, Leipzig scored 63 goals last season, slightly under-performing with their xG of 68.
RB Leipzig have transitioned over the last two seasons, with teams in the Bundesliga quickly adapting to the extreme pressure that the side were applying. They’d counter Leipzig’s tactics by switching the play, or playing the ball long – exposing their back four – and countering the counter-attack, so to speak.
Leipzig have now started to force teams to play their football into the centre-midfield area before applying their press. This reduces the pressure required on their ‘circular’ positioning, and reduces the risk of teams switching from one side of the pitch to the other. Only Bayern Munich were defensively better in the Bundesliga last season.
Champagne Football v Heavy Metal Football
What to expect from Aston Villa?
Expect to see John McGinn, Jack Grealish and whoever the defensive midfielder – likely Conor Hourihane or Marvelous Nakamba working exceptionally hard with our back four to free up passing lanes and beat their press. A true test of how tidy Aston Villa can be in possession.
Also, expect to see Aston Villa to try a long ball more often – possibly to Wesley or to wingers trying to get in behind.
Remember that Aston Villa are also adept at starting their own counter-attacks against teams too. This has been shown recently by John McGinn’s two goals against Charlton.
With considerably more talent in this Leipzig team – Aston Villa will need to choose their time correctly.
Worryingly, Aston Villa aren’t exactly renowned for aptly defending a simple long ball over the top. They’ve done it, on countless occasions – but it’s also been the side’s downfall too. RB Leipzig will likely make the sides that succeeded against Villa last season in this regard like a Sunday League side, and with the speed of Timo Werner – Villa will really need to ensure they limit the amount of times that he can get in behind.
Expect to see a real tactical fight where a moment of brilliance might just edge it. There’s no need to panic if Aston Villa flee from Germany with a bloody nose, however. Testing ourselves against the best will teach us valuable lessons for the upcoming Premier League season.
Look out for:
Timo Werner, Yussuf Poulsen, Kevin Kampl and Marcel Halstenberg all pose threats to Aston Villa from all three areas of the pitch.