While those they wish to challenge were on money-spinning pre-season tours and rebuilding fitness, RB Leipzig, and a tiny number of their fans, have been slogging through two-legged Europa League ties and travelling to Sweden and Romania.
With a 2300km journey to Ukranian side Zorya Luhansk hot on the heels of their German Cup (DFB Pokal) opener against Viktoria Cologne on Sunday and the small matter of a Bundesliga opening weekend trip to Borussia Dortmund before the return leg, it’s fair to say it’s not been the off-season most clubs would hope for.
But the club’s spearhead, Germany international striker Timo Werner, believes the early start forced by last season’s sixth-placed finish has been a positive.
‘Perfect time’ to start
“The team are in a really good place right now. We have played more competitive games than usual, compared to a normal August,” he said ahead of the 1-1 draw with Universitatea Craiova on Thursday that confirmed their place in the Europa League playoffs.
“The players who featured at the World Cup are regaining their match fitness. The DFB Pokal game against Viktoria Köln comes at a perfect time for us.”
Comfortable first leg wins in both rounds to date have allowed interim coach Ralf Rangnick to shuffle his pack a little and afford the likes of Werner, Emil Forsberg, Yusuf Poulsen and Marcel Sabitzer plenty of rest, while also giving new signings an early opportunity to show their worth. Brazilian forward Matheus Cunha, who joined from Swiss side Sion has been particularly impressive, while fellow new signings Nordi Mukiele and Marcelo Saracchi have also begun to find their way.