The knock-out stages of the Champions League are just around the corner, and RB Leipzig have reason to be full of confidence ahead of their clashes with Liverpool. The German Bundesliga side would have probably been a bit deflated when they saw their name pulled out of the draw alongside the six-time European champions. However, given the Reds’ recent form, Julian Nagelsmann and his men could be filled with a newfound belief.
Liverpool’s form over the last couple of months has left a lot to be desired. Since the 7-0 win over Crystal Palace in mid-December, Jürgen Klopp’s men have won just twice in nine games. As a result, the defending champions have fallen down the league table at an alarming rate.
They are now 10 points behind leaders Manchester City, who also boast a game in hand, and the defence of their first title in 30 years looks all but over. However, somewhat more worrying for the Reds is the fact that Chelsea have clawed back the gap with their recent form under new boss Thomas Tuchel, and they now sit just one point behind Liverpool in fifth. So, falling out of the top four is only one more bad result away for the Anfield side.
Leipzig’s form, whilst not perfect, is in stark comparison to that of Liverpool. Nagelsmann’s side have only lost three times in the Bundesliga this season, and with 12 wins from 20 games thus far, they are second only to serial winners Bayern Munich, who are the favourites to win the European title back-to-back, according to the latest Champions League odds in 2021. So, their league form is not to be sniffed at.
In the Champions League, they finished second to Paris Saint-Germain in Group H. However, last year’s finalists only pipped them to top spot on the basis of goal difference. Many people will, however, remember the 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, and that is probably a game Klopp and his team will be watching as they look for a way past Leipzig.
That crushing defeat aside, it’s worth nothing at Nagelsmann’s men progressed from the group ahead of the Red Devils, beating Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side 3-2 when they came to Germany on the final gameweek of the group, whilst they also beat PSG 2-1 at the Red Bull Arena. So, they will certainly be no walk in the park for Liverpool.
Leipzig’s “home” fixture being moved to the Puskás Aréna in Budapest due to the current coronavirus restrictions could take away their home advantage, as albeit without fans, they would still have the comforts of their own dressing room, familiar pitch and so on.
However, the additional travel mileage to the Hungarian capital will also be a headache for Klopp, who must prepare his team for a trip to Leicester City and the Merseyside Derby against Everton at Anfield either side of the journey.
Champions League nights under the lights at Anfield are notorious. However, the lack of fans seems to have ripped away that edge for Liverpool. Five league games without victory at home, including three defeats on the trot, will leave Leipzig smelling blood as they arrive in Merseyside, should the tie still be open after the first leg of course.
Now is the perfect time for Leipzig to play Liverpool, especially given their recent form. However, with their hopes of retaining the league title all but quashed, the Reds could turn their attention to the Champion League and come out all guns blazing.