The Jesse Marsh era at RB Leipzig didn’t get off to a good start in last weekend’s season opener. But the Red Bulls will have a chance to rectify that on Friday when they host VfB Stuttgart, which got its Bundesliga campaign started with a win. Despite last week’s loss, RB Leipzig is heavily favored at home with a moneyline of -104 while Stuttgart has a moneyline of +581. There is also a +381 moneyline for a draw.
The Red Bulls were shocked to lose 1-0 to Mainz in the season opener, especially considering that Mainz was missing roughly a dozen players for COVID-related reasons. But Leipzig fell behind in the 12th minute and couldn’t get level. Coming off a season in which the Red Bulls finished second in the Bundesliga, it was a disappointing way to start the new campaign.
Of course, it shouldn’t be that surprising to see Leipzig struggle right off the bat. Defenders Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate both left the club over the summer, so there is some rebuilding to do defensively. French defender Mohamed Simakan was brought in to help replace the departed players with the 21-year-old getting the start at center back alongside Willi Orban. It could take him time to get up to speed in the Bundesliga and time for the new Leipzig backline to gel.
That being said, it was nevertheless disappointing for the Red Bulls to be kept scoreless after owning 72% of the possession against Mainz. The club spent a hefty sum on forward Andre Silva of Eintracht Frankfurt over the summer, but he couldn’t find the back of the net. In fairness, Yussuf Poulsen and Dani Olmo were unavailable for the game while Austrian midfielder Marcel Sabitzer came off the bench, so the team’s attack wasn't at full strength. But with Silva being an experienced Bundesliga player and the likes of Emil Forsberg and Christopher Nkunku getting the start, the Red Bulls should have been able to find the back of the net against Mainz.
Stuttgart was one of six Bundesliga teams to get a win last weekend. The Reds were quite impressive over newly-promoted club Greuther Furth, winning 5-1 and jumping to the top of the Bundesliga table along with Hoffenheim, who also has a +4 goal differential. Of course, things will get more difficult for a club that finished ninth in the table last season, especially going on the road against a team like Leipzig.
That being said, confidence will surely be high for the Reds after scoring five goals. With striker Nicolas Gonzalez leaving over the summer, there were some concerns about the Stuttgart attack, especially with last season’s two leading scorers Silas Wamangituka and Sasa Kalajdzic both being unavailable for the season opener. But the Reds were able to do a lot of damage from the left wing with Borna Sosa collecting three assists. Center back Marc-Oliver Kempf also contributed two goals. However, the Stuttgart attack remains a little short-handed at this point in the season with Wamangituka and Kalajdzic absent in the opener.
Defensively, Stuttgart will be disappointed to give up the clean sheet in the 93rd minute last week. But they will have few other complaints about their defensive effort. Granted, goalie Gregor Kobel was lost to Borussia Dortmund over the summer, but Florian Muller, formerly of Mainz is a suitable replacement. The Stuttgart backline also figures to get a boost this season with Greek center back Konstantinos Mavropanos coming to the Reds on loan from Arsenal and immediately stepping into the starting lineup.
With RB Leipzig being such a heavy favorite after a rather disappointing loss, it’s tough to pick them with any type of confidence. The fact that Stuttgart looked so impressive last week, albeit against a weaker side, also complicates this game. But with the Red Bulls far from full strength right now and still trying to sort out personnel changes in their backline, it’s worthwhile to take a chance on the Reds pulling off a surprise win on the road.
Pick: Stuttgart 2-1