Top four the best case year-one scenario for ambitious RB Leipzig

Top four the best case year-one scenario for ambitious RB Leipzig

Next time somebody bores you with the line that no division can rival the Premier League for unpredictability, point them in the direction of the Bundesliga table.

Schalke, Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg and Hamburg, all of whom have finished on the podium in the past 11 years, are in the bottom six, current Champions League duo Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen are in the bottom half and Borussia Dortmund are winless in three in sixth.

Sure, Bayern Munich remain top, but they too have erred in their two of their last three assignments, meaning that there are four sides within five points of them. Oh, and here’s the most interesting bit: the unlikely chasing pack is formed by RB Leipzig, Hertha Berlin, Hoffenheim and Koln.

It is RB Leipzig whose presence is most intriguing. The second-tier runners-up find themselves occupying the same position in the top flight after an unbeaten initiation in which they have won five and drawn three of their eight fixtures.

Having already defeated Dortmund and Wolfsburg, the perception is that the wealthy newcomers have staying power, with them being backed in to 33/1 third favourite status in the title betting, being as short as 5/1 in the winner without Bayern Munich market and an odds-on 3/4 for a top-four finish.

Kaiserslautern under Otto Rehhagel were the kings of the Bundesliga newcomers

So what is their ceiling in their debut campaign? Of course it isn’t unheard of for a promoted club to top the table, with Otto Rehhagel’s Kaiserslautern doing precisely that in 1997/98, yet none of the 49 Bundesliga 2 graduates since have come close to replicating that feat.

A mere six have broken into the top half (12%) with none placing higher than sixth, which was achieved by Frankfurt in 2012/13. Though 61% stay up, their average resting spot is 14th.

RB Leipzig’s 18 points is an eight-game total that has only been bettered by Frankfurt in the post-Kaiserslautern landscape, and is twice the promoted team average at this juncture of nine.

The last side with rich financers to advance to the Bundesliga and threaten a title challenge were Hoffenheim in 2008/09. The Red Bull-backed newbies have two points more than they did, though it is also worth remembering that the villagers did drop off and eventually settle in seventh.

Still, it is pretty telling that since Kaiserslautern’s success 19 seasons ago, nobody has even invaded the top five on arrival. The ongoing failures of several big German clubs might enable RB Leipzig to break down that barrier, but the statistics suggest that expecting more than that is optimistic.