Timo Werner-less Leipzig strengthen grip on top four | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.02.2019
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Timo Werner-less Leipzig strengthen grip on top four

After responding to defeat against Dortmund with back-to-back victories, Leipzig have underlined their top four credentials. The unresolved future of Timo Werner, however, is a cloud that continues to hang over them.

In the end, RB Leipzig's 3-0 win in Hanover was routine. Ralf Rangnick's side made light work of the Bundesliga cellar dwellers with Marcel Halstenberg scoring from the spot on the cusp of half-time before Willi Orban's second-half brace put the game beyond a harmless Hannover side. 

As a result, Leipzig remain on course to hit their season targets of securing a top-four finish and with it a return to the promised land of the UEFA Champions League.

Unburdened and unleashed?

This season's stint in the UEFA Europa League proved a forgettable experience predicated on a rampant rotation policy and disjointed performances. Getting knocked out of in the group stages was not a good look for a side desperate to prove they could cope with competing on three fronts.

Yet without the burden of taxing midweek trips across the continent, Die Roten Bullen are to be taken seriously in the Rückrunde. Especially as they've demonstrated a propensity for picking up positive results when Timo Werner hasn't been at the races, or in the match day squad as was the case against Hannover due to illness.

The German international has flattered to deceive since the turn of the year, failing to add to the 11 goals he scored in the first half of the season as the matter of his contract extension looms large.

Read more: Why Timo Werner should stay in Leipzig

'I'm confident he'll stay'

Leipzig's coach and sporting director Rangnick admitted that a "very attractive" offer has been made to the 22-year-old, who is being courted by the likes of Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Real Madrid if reports are to be believed.

However, the Rangnick also reiterated that should no extension be signed, Werner will be sold in the summer to avoid him leaving on a free in 2020, a stance Leipzig have been unwavering in.

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"If he's well advised, which I believe he is, then he'll sign a contract extension," Rangnick told Focus. "Both he and his agent are aware that he doesn't fit into every team […] we can't force him, but I'm confident that he'll stay. After all, a new contract doesn't mean he can't ever leave the club."

Leipzig's desire to establish themselves among the Bundesliga's elite was always going to be a long-term project and, while there were signs of a plateau early on, progress has been made in 2018/19. The question is whether Werner feels the time is right to strike while the iron is hot?

No reason to leave

With the Bundesliga's meanest backline, a smattering of internationals and rising stars like Tyler Adams, the East German outfit has talent in their ranks beyond Timo. However, he is their marquee player and losing him in the summer before Julian Nagelsmann's takeover would be a big blow. 

The prospect of Germany's top striker working with and being guaranteed game time under Germany's most exciting head coach is a mouth-watering prospect. Playing second fiddle to Roberto Firmino, Robert Lewandowski or Karim Benzema is not.

A decision will be made at the end of the season at the latest, but if Werner's choice hinges on Leipzig's ability to clinch qualification for the Champions League then there's no reason to panic.

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