Back on the European stage!
RB Leipzig are travelling to Switzerland for matchday 1 of the 2023/24 Champions League on Tuesday 19th September. The boys will take on BSC Young Boys at the Stadion Wankdorf at 18:45 CEST, and are looking to get their first three points in Group G.
However, this fixture will pose an unusual challenge to the team, as the 16-time Swiss champions have been playing their home fixtures on artificial grass since the 2014/15 season. "We will have to acclimatise ourselves to the different surface", explained RBL head coach Marco Rose in the lead up to the fixture.
Their ability to play well at home was perhaps the reason for their success in last season's campaign. In fact, Bern didn't lose a single home match in the Credit Suisse Super League, and finished top of the table, 16 points ahead of Servette. With 82 goals scored and only 30 conceded, they were the best side at both ends of the pitch in the division. YB topped off their season by taking home the domestic cup after a 3-2 win in the final over FC Lugano.
But how are they doing so far this season? How has the squad changed from last year's? Who are their key players?
We'll get you up to speed with our opponent analysis for the first Champions League group stage game of the season.
- The champions of Switzerland have won the league title five times in the past six seasons, and are raring to go again this time round. The current double title holders have kicked off their league campaign so far with three wins and two draws in five games, and are currently sat with eleven points in second place behind FC Zürich, who have twelve points and played one extra game.
They won their fixture in the first round of the domestic cup 5-0 at home to third-division side FC Breitenhain Bern in front of 13,861 spectators, a new record for a match in the first round of this competition in Switzerland. Bern then won their second round game 1-0 against second-division club Xamax Neuchatel.
Raphael Wicky's team are extremely playing at home on their astroturf pitch, as their only loss on their own patch last season was a 1-0 defeat against RSC Anderlecht in the first leg of the Conference League play-offs. Young Boys lost the subsequent return leg in Belgium (3-1 on penalties) and were unable to progress into the group stage as a result.
After a 0-0 draw in the first leg and a 3-0 win in the second leg against Maccabi Haifa this year, the club have now qualified for the Champions League for the third time after 2018 and 2021.
A memorable experience
- The 2-1 win at home in the group stage against Manchester United on 14th September 2021 would have to be the highlight of their Champions League history so far. Cristiano Ronaldo put the English side ahead before the break, but Bern turned the game around in the second half with Jordan Siebatcheu, now of Gladbach, getting a late winner in the 95th minute. This just goes to show the magic of the Wankdorf-Stadion!
Matchday 1 in Switzerland
- Darian Males, who has made 17 appearances for Switzerland U21s, joined Young Boys this summer from Inter Milan. The 22-year-old attacking midfielder went out on loan to FC Basel in February 2021, contributing to the most goals for his team (28: 11 goals, 17 assists) in 47 games across all three competitions last season (league, Domestic Cup, Conference League).
- Polish box-to-box midfielder Łukasz Łakomy has displayed great potential for YB with his traditional style of play. The central midfielder, who is known to have a strong winning mentality, played for first-division Polish side Zagłębie Lubin last season in all of their 34 league fixtures, recording a total of four goals and three assists. He has made two appearances for his country's U21 side so far, and scored the winning goal on matchday 6 against Servette in their 1-0 away win.
- Attacker Ebrima Colley has been signed on a loan deal from Serie A side Atalanta. The 23-year-old is renowned for his technical ability, and has made 19 appearances for his national team (Gambia) so far. Over the past three years, he has been sent out on loan to Hellas Verona, Spezia Calcio and lastly to Karagümrük, for whom he made 30 appearances in the league and cup last season, recording two goals and ten assists.
- Silvere Ganvoula, a well-known player in Germany, made the move to Bern in the summer transfer window. The Congolese centre forward played for VfL Bochum from 2018 before signing for Young Boys, where he scored 23 goals and recorded ten assists in 110 competitive fixtures (1. and 2. Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal). In the second half of the 2021/22 season, the 27-year-old signed for Cercle Brugge in Belgium on a loan deal. He opened his account for YB on matchday 3 against FC Winterthur. Ganvoula is 191cm tall, meaning he is a physical player who is strong in the air, and is very fast despite his height.
- Right-back Saidy Janko returned to Bern after having most recently spent two seasons with Real Valladolid (Spain) and one season on loan at VfL Bochum, for whom he made 20 appearances last season. The defender played on loan for YB in the 2019/20 season and was part of the squad that won the league and cup. He has now signed a permanent contract with the club. Janko is said to be a real asset to the team due to his power, strength and passion for the game.
- Young Boys signed Swedish international Noah Persson at the beginning of this year, though he remained at Mjällby AIF in Sweden for the remainder of the season, before arriving in Bern this summer. The 20-year-old is a talented left-back, who made his international debut in a friendly against Finland in January 2023.
- Academy product Fabian Rieder left his boyhood club for Stade Rennes over the summer. The 21-year-old attacking midfielder came up through the ranks of the club’s academy, and made his senior international debut while at Young Boys.
- Young Boys have also had other key players leave the club in veteran centre-back Cedric Zesiger (VfL Wolfsburg) and midfielder Christian Fassnacht (Norwich City). Right-backs Kevin Ruegg (Hellas Verona) and Quentin Maceiras (Puskás Akadémia) have also signed for new clubs.
- Striker Jean-Pierre Nsame scored a league-best 21 goals last season, in addition to netting five goals in the cup. He also won the league’s top goalscorer award in 2020 (32 goals) and 2019 (19), as well as being named the best player in the Swiss Super League in both those seasons. The Cameroonian is a highly talented striker with a lot of physicality, pace, a strong shot and the ability to read the game.
- Nsame’s strike partner, Cedric Itten, finished just behind his teammate in the league’s goalscoring charts last season. The 26-year-old, who spent 2021/22 on loan at Greuther Fürth (12 Bundesliga games, 2 goals), scored 19 times for Young Boys last term and provided eight assists. The Switzerland international stands an imposing 1.90m tall and is the main target man in the box due to his height.
- Veteran centre-back Fabian Lustenberger not only captains the side, but is also a key leader for them due to his vast experience. The 35-year-old spent 12 years at Hertha BSC before joining Young Boys in 2019.
- Aurele Amenda was one of the breakout players of last season. The 20-year-old centre-back is a key figure within the back-four. Due to his strength in winning duels, the Biel native has also been able to earn himself a spot in Switzerland’s U21 side. He will now look to take up more responsibility within the team.
- Goalkeeper Anthony Racioppi took over as Young Boys’ first choice between the sticks last season, following an injury to David von Ballmoos. The 24-year-old has good reflexes and kept eight clean sheets across multiple competitions last term.
- Sporting director Steve von Bergen, who played for Hertha BSC from 2007 to 2010, brought in head coach Raphael Wicky at the start of the 2022/23 season. The Swiss head coach had previously spent two years in MLS at Chicago Fire, having also been in charge of FC Basel and the USA U17s. The 46-year-old won the domestic double in his very first season with Young Boys.
Wicky is a familiar figure in Germany as well, having spent some of his playing career in the Bundesliga. The defender featured for SV Werder Bremen from 1997 to 2000, winning the DFB-Pokal with the Green-Whites in 1999. The former Switzerland international also played for Hamburger SV from December 2001 to August 2007. Other stops in his playing career include FC Sion, Atlético Madrid and Chivas USA. He retired from professional football in 2009.
His preferred formation is a 4-4-2 with two strikers. Wicky’s sides tend to look to control the ball and press their opponents hard. As soon as they win possession, they look to counter quickly via long balls over the opposition defence. Young Boys are also a threat from the flanks and look to cross often.
Young boys' recent results:
- 15th September 2023 | Swiss Cup, second round: Neuchâtel Xamax – Young Boys | 0-1
- 3rd September 2022 | Credit Suisse Super League, matchday 6: Servette FC – Young Boys | 0-1
- 29th August 2023 | UEFA Champions League qualifying, second leg: Young Boys – Maccabi Haifa | 3-0
- 23rd August 2023 | UEFA Champions League qualifying, first leg: Maccabi Haifa – Young Boys | 0-0
- 18th August 2023 | Swiss Cup, first round: FC Breitenrain Bern – Young Boys | 0-5
Where Young Boys have finished in recent years:
- 2021/22: Group stage (finished fourth in a group with Atalanta, Villarreal CF, Manchester United), 4 goals scored, 12 conceded, 4 points
- 2018/19: Group stage (finished fourth in a group with Valencia CF, Manchester United, Juventus), 7 goals scored, 12 conceded, 5 points