RB Leipzig defender Willi Orban admits it will be difficult for the club to mount another Bundesliga title challenge as last season’s fairy-tale story prepare to make their Champions League bow.
Leipzig took the Bundesliga by storm in 2016-17, threatening to dethrone German giants Bayern Munich in their first season in the top flight.
Orban and his team-mates eventually finished runners-up to Bayern, securing automatic Champions League qualification in the process, capping their meteoric and rapid rise through the German divisions having only been formed in 2009.
An unknown quantity in 2016-17, Leipzig will have to deal with additional pressure and matches this time around, and Orban was keen to play down any hype following last season’s remarkable exploits.
“To be honest, that will be very hard. Not only because our schedule is tighter than last season, with a game to play every three days,” Orban – who wore the captain’s armband more often than not last term – told Omnisport.
“There are teams like [Bayer] Leverkusen, Schalke or [Borussia] Monchengladbach that have high expectations and they are hungry because these teams did not finish where they expected themselves last season.
“However, the nucleus of our squad is the same as last season and we also added some really good new players. Therefore, we look positive into the future.”
Orban added: “There are so many teams that fight for international spots. We don’t look at Bayern Munich, we are still far behind them, it is like they play in another league.
“First, we have to cope with playing Champions League, Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal, then we can talk about goals in terms of the table.
“We want to take the next steps and develop our game, we will see what we will get for our effort. And of course, players like [new signings] Bruma or [Jean-Kevin] Augustin help us to become a better team.”
The draw for the Champions League group stage takes place in Monaco on August 24, with Leipzig in pot four.
Leipzig could come up against the likes of defending champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Juventus or Manchester United.
“We are looking forward to the group drawing and everybody on the team is just thrilled to play against the best teams in Europe,” the 24-year-old said.
“For most of us, the Champions League will be new terrain but that was Bundesliga as well last season. We won’t go out there and expect to win every game. We want to enjoy the games and get used to the level of play as quickly as possible. Then we will see how far that can bring us.”
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