It’s time for a good old Liverpool clash after a long hiatus following the conclusion of the group stages, the Champions League is finally back with PSG, Liverpool and Barcelona! What better way to kick off the Round of 16 proceedings than with two blockbuster clashes. Barcelona takes on PSG in the headlining clash of the night. Simultaneously, Liverpool takes on RB Leipzig.
Both teams come into the clash with their domestic title hopes being more or less dashed. Liverpool have seen a dramatic downturn of form post-Christmas and have now ‘conceded’ the title to Manchester City. Try as they might, Leipzig just can’t surpass the unstoppable juggernaut that is Bayern Munich. The Champions League appears to be their biggest shot at glory and they will be gunning to make it to the next stage.
Form and Buildup
Liverpool have been in poor form in the past few weeks, to say the least. After a loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup, the Reds won away to Spurs and West Ham.
This was before succumbing to three straight defeats to Brighton, Manchester City and Leicester. As a result, they find themselves in a top 4 dogfight at the moment. They will surely be eager to return to winning ways in this crunch clash.
Leipzig, on the other hand, have bounced back strong from a shock loss to Mainz a few weeks ago. Since then, they’ve won four games in a row across all competitions and look to be in fine form. Their recent winning run includes an impressive win over Leverkusen where they shut out their visitors to win by a 1-0 scoreline.
As a result of their winning streak, they have moved up to 2nd place in the Bundesliga table and look comfortably poised to qualify for the CL, come the end of the season.
Team News and Lineups
Liverpool will be without Joel Matip, Virgil Van Dijk, Diogo Jota and Joe Gomez. All these players are recovering from long term injuries. Fabinho and James Milner are also major doubts for this trip and were not present in training on Monday.
Naby Keita has returned to training but has been ruled out due to match fitness. RB Leipzig have their own fair share of injuries. Their recent form is commendable and their bench quality has shone brightly this season. It will be interesting to see if Kluivert starts this one.
Gulacsi, Mukiele, Upamecano, Klostermann, Adams, Sabiter, Kampl, Olmo, Angelino, Poulsen, Nkunku
Alisson, Alexander Arnold, Kabak, Henderson, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Jones, Thiago, Salah, Firmino, Mane
Players to watch out for
The 22-year old Spanish attacker has been in fine form. He scored a vital goal in Leipzig’s last game in a 2-1 win. In addition to goals, we know that he can provide assists as well. His versatility will be key and his pace could just break the Liverpool backline.
You’d barely believe that Angelino is a full back if you saw his stats. The Spanish left-back has 4 goals and six assists to his name thus far. That is more than Leipzig’s star attacker Poulsen. He may not have been the brightest at Manchester City but he sure is quite the brilliant spectacle here at Leipzig.
In the absence of the main centre backs, Robertson has improved a lot in defence. He has an excellent 85% pass success rate and a pretty decent tackle rate at 76%. He’s been Liverpool’s key man in attacks and has the most assists(5) for Liverpool this season.
The Egyptian right winger has had a fantastic first half to this season. He’s leading the Premier League 20-21 goal scoring chart with 17 goals. He also holds the top spot for minutes per goal alongside Anwar El- Ghazi with an average of 113 minutes per goal. If Liverpool want to go further in the UCL, the 28-year-old will have to be at his best.
Liverpool can expect a thriller here. None of the previous 22 Champions League games in Leipzig ended goal-less. At least this contest can promise goals. The German outfit was denied home advantage and Liverpool could be granted a small advantage over the tie as a whole by the neutral venue, but the form book strongly points to a Leipzig win in this match.
The Liverpool front trio will still fancy their chances of having a vital away goal, but we expect them to leave with a gap to overturn next month at Anfield in the second leg. Regardless of what happens, we can surely expect this one to be a thriller.
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