BERLIN: Ralf Rangnick says the Bundesliga will flaunt its future on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) when his “sexy” second-placed RB Leipzig face unbeaten Hoffenheim with both aiming to chase down leaders Bayern Munich.
“We are proud, modern and attractive, sexy even,” Leipzig’s director of sport, who has taken the Red Bull-backed upstarts from the fourth division to Germany’s top tier, told daily FussballBild.
“The size of the city, the number of fans, sponsors and media interest means Leipzig has a big dimension.
“We can be more than just a regional team in the long term,” he added, with RB — who enjoyed a record start to their first Bundesliga season with 13 games unbeaten — on course for next season’s Champions League.
They are three points behind Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern, but eight ahead of Hoffenheim in third.
Hoffenheim earned a 1-1 draw at Bayern in November and are the only team in Germany’s top flight still with an unbeaten record after seven wins and 10 draws this season.
Their emergence has not gone unnoticed at Bayern, who snapped up burly centre-back Niklas Suele and defensive midfielder Sebastian Rudy for next season.
Under Julian Nagelsmann, 29, the youngest coach in Bundesliga history, Hoffenheim are a tough team to crack.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge,” said Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl.
“I expect to face a very, very brave (Hoffenheim) team, it will be a high-class — and probably close — game.
“They like to dominate possession and are cool on the ball.”
Germany’s in-form strikers, Leipzig’s Timo Werner and Hoffenheim’s Sandro Wagner, will go head-to-head.
Both have hit 10 goals each this season and the hot-shots are hoping to fire their way into the plans of Germany coach Joachim Loew at Leipzig’s Red Bull Arena.
Leipzig will be missing Scottish winger Oliver Burke, who has a cold.
Also Saturday Bayern are at strugglers Werder Bremen, who are just above the relegation places.
Bayern — for whom winger Franck Ribery will be hoping to be involved — have won their last five games against Bremen, scoring 22 goals without reply.
“We know what’s coming at us but we will not be overawed,” said Bremen’s coach Alexander Nouri.
“We will do well to believe in ourselves and we can influence the present, I don’t look at the past.”
Bremen’s first-choice goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny is suspended after being sent off in the 2-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund for a kick on Germany winger Marco Reus, which also earned him a 10,000 euro fine.
Reserve Felix Wiedwald, 26, who lost his place at the start of the season, is relishing his chance.
Bremen will be able to include Germany winger Serge Gnabry, who has shaken off an upset stomach, but captain Clemens Fritz is doubtful with a sore throat.
On Sunday the league’s top-scorer, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has 17 goals in 15 league games, should feature for fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund at Mainz.
The Gabon striker is back after his country’s early Africa Cup of Nations exit.
Dortmund defender Neven Subotic, who has joined Cologne on loan until the end of the season, is set to make his debut for his new club at bottom side Darmstadt.