For many Liverpool fans, the hopes of securing a top 4 or even a top 6 finish in the league are dwindling rapidly with every passing day. Woeful performances coupled with growing opposition have led to the belief within and outside Anfield that the league is indeed a lost cause this season. The Reds are out of both domestic cup competitions as well – which leaves the Champions League as the only shot at silverware for Liverpool this season. Going all the way will not only win some coveted silverware once again, but it will also qualify them for next year’s edition. But to ensure that they have a chance at the cup, they must get through tomorrow’s difficult second leg against Leipzig at Budapest.
Form and First Leg Recap
The first leg ended in a 2-0 victory for Liverpool. Since the first leg was meant to be the ‘away’ leg for Liverpool (despite the neutral venue), it gives them a much-needed cushion over their rivals. That match was tightly contested but in the end, Liverpool took advantage of their rival’s defensive errors to win the match. This time they will need to be sharp in attack and defense in order to replicate their success and progress to the next round.
The form of the two teams could not be more contrasting coming into this game. Leipzig has won all four of their games since the defeat in the first leg. They have defeated quality opposition like Wolfsburg (in the cup) Monchengladbach, Hertha Berlin, and Hoffenheim on this streak – and haven’t conceded in their last two. Liverpool, on the other hand, is coming into this game in abysmal form. They have lost three and won only once since the first leg. Having scored 2 goals in those 4 matches and conceding a total of 4. They need to come out of their slump in order to ensure their progress.
Team news and predicted lineups
Liverpool is without the services of defensive trio Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip for the big game on Wednesday night. They will also be without Roberto Firmino who Klopp ruled out in his press conference on Tuesday night.
Formation – 4-3-3
Defence-Alexander Arnold, Kabak, Fabinho, Robertson,
Midfield- Wijnaldum, Jones, Keita,
Attack- Salah, Firmino, Mané
RB Leipzig will be without threatening wingback Angelino for this match as confirmed by coach Naggelsman in his press conference. The rest of the squad should be fit for the game.
Defence- Klostermann, Upamecano, Mukiele,
Midfield- Kampl, Nkunku, Olmo, Forsberg, Adams,
Attack- Poulsen, Sorloth
Ones to watch out
The Egyptian King was on the scoresheet last time around and will offer a threat down the right in this game as well. His pace, finishing, and final third work will be important if Liverpool wants to extend their lead and ensure their progress. His linkup with Alexander Arnold is a key part of Klopp’s plans going forward.
Klopp and Liverpool will be boosted with the return of clinical Portuguese forward Jota. He adds some much-needed pace and explosiveness to the Liverpool attack and offers a much better alternative through the center than Firmino. His form before the injury was brilliant and he will be hoping to pick up where he left off in December.
The ex-Liverpool keeper will have to be on top form between the sticks to prevent his side from going behind. If Leipzig has to progress, they will need to ensure they don’t concede any further and Gulasci will be key in keeping the deficit to a minimum.
In the absence of Marcel Sabitzer, Nkunku will be take up the talisman role for Leipzig. The Frenchman is known for his dribbling, acceleration, and shooting and will be the creative force behind his team on Wednesday night. He will be an important part of Naggelsman’s plan to overturn the 2-0 loss in the first leg.
This match is arguably the most important game of Liverpool’s campaign so far. The UCL not only offers a chance for silverware but also offers a route to next year’s competition for the Reds. Who is struggling in the PL? Leipzig has form and confidence on their side and the stage is set for an interesting encounter between these two exciting sides.
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