Goals from everywhere, Bayern-bound Dayot Upamecano solid at the back and a healthy record against Premier League sides… why Liverpool should fear Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig ahead of their Champions League clash
- Liverpool take on RB Leipzig in the Champions League last-16 on Tuesday night
- Julian Nagelsmann’s side are in red-hot form having won five of their last six
- Former Man City left-back Angelino is thriving and Dayot Upamecano is solid
- Sportsmail looks at why Jurgen Klopp’s side should fear their Bundesliga rivals…
Dumped out of the FA Cup in January and miles off the pace in the Premier League – Liverpool’s season now rests on success in Europe.
Yet another stumbling block in Jurgen Klopp’s plans is that their European knockout adventure begins with a tough test against Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig – who come into their last-16 tie against the Reds in fine form.
Last season’s Champions League semi-finalists have won five out of their last six games in all competitions as they continue to put the pressure on perennial winners Bayern Munich at the top of German domestic football.
RB Leipzig are waiting to potentially inflict more pain on Liverpool in the Champions League
Julian Nagelsmann’s (L) side will be a stern test for Jurgen Klopp’s (R) underperforming Reds
Ahead of Liverpool’s first-leg tie against Leipzig on Tuesday, Sportsmail looks at why Jurgen Klopp’s side should be fearful of their Bundesliga opponents in a contest that could define their season…
UPAMECANO IN FINE FORM
Liverpool’s front line has not been at its usual goal-scoring self recently, firing three Premier League blanks since the turn of the year.
But the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will find French defender Dayot Upamecano an even greater test than most Premier League defences normally offer.
There’s a reason why Bayern Munich have forked out £38.5million for the 22-year-old centre-back.
Upamecano brings the defensive solidity that compliments Leipzig’s all-out attacking game.
Liverpool should fear the quick and aerially dominant Dayot Upamecano (right) in defence
The Frenchman will be a difficult man to get around – the centre-back recorded the third-quickest sprint speed in the Bundesliga (35.34 km/h) earlier this season and the defender is capable at dealing with one-versus-ones situations too.
Upamecano has also won over 70 per cent of his aerial duels this term, meaning he will be confident in dealing with any long-ball approach Liverpool bring and can deny the Reds from set pieces.
A capable ball carrier too, Upamecano will not be afraid to contribute to Leipzig’s attacking play, which could force the likes of Firmino and Salah to help out their midfield team-mates.
GULACSI BACK WITH A POINT TO PROVE
There may be a wry smile on Peter Gulacsi’s face when he lines up to play former side Liverpool on Tuesday.
The Hungarian goalkeeper was signed by the Reds in 2007 and stayed there for six years without ever making an appearance for the club.
Goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi was unused by Liverpool in a 2007-2013 spell on Merseyside
The Merseysiders sent the up-and-coming goalkeeper out to Hereford and Tranmere on short loan deals before letting him return to Europe in 2013 after barely giving him a chance.
Now Gulacsi is one of the top shot stoppers in Europe and is a fundamental part of this Leipzig side threatening to muscle in on Champions League glory.
The 30-year-old, who will be playing in his homeland with the first leg now in Budapest, insists Leipzig are now a regular competitor alongside the continent’s elite clubs.
Not only did the Hungarian play a key role in Leipzig reaching the last four of the Champions League last season, but he has started the current campaign brightly too.
Gulacsi is now a key part of the Leipzig side and has ten clean sheets in 21 league appearances
Gulacsi has ten clean sheets in 21 Bundesliga appearances this term and will be a tough person for Liverpool to crack in their two encounters this and next month.
Both Gulasci and Upamecano are solid reasons why the German side have only conceded 18 goals in 21 league matches this term.
ANGELINO RUNNING RIOT… AT LEFT WING-BACK!
Former Manchester City full-back Angelino barely got a look-in under Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium but the Spaniard is outperforming any Premier League left-back this season.
The 24-year-old is bizarrely second in the goalscoring charts for Leipzig with eight goals in all competitions this campaign, despite turning out in a left wing-back role under the ambitious Nagelsmann.
Former Manchester City left-back Angelino is bizarrely RB Leipzig’s second top goalscorer
Angelino also chips in as a provider and leads the assists charts too with 11 so far this term.
This form has seen the full-back secure a permanent transfer to the Bundesliga club following a loan spell from City and Nagelsmann considers the Spaniard as a key component of his Leipzig side.
‘Angel is an extremely good player who’s very important for our game,’ said Nagelsmann after making the left-back’s deal permanent.
‘He’s played a leading role with us from the word go, and although he’s already developed extremely well and quickly, he can still do so much more.
‘He constantly wants to push his limits in terms of making progress, and that’s incredibly impressive.’
Angelino has also provided eleven assists in all competitions in what is currently a stellar term
FLEXIBLE FORMATIONS AND PERSONNEL
Gone are the days RB Leipzig relied on now-Chelsea striker Timo Werner for attacking creativity – the German side are capable of scoring goals from anywhere on the pitch.
This is not only epitomised by the fact that defender Angelino has eight this season, but also the goalscoring exploits of fellow defenders Nordi Mukiele (3) and Willi Orban (4).
Furthermore, Leipzig have netted 13 goals in their past six games – with nine different goalscorers popping up on the scoresheet.
Leipzig have great strength in depth in the forward areas – where they can be flexible too
Liverpool’s defenders may look to occupy the likes of Youssuf Poulsen and Dani Olmo in the attacking areas, but Jurgen Klopp’s entire side will need to be aware of anyone getting on the end of crosses in their two encounters.
Nagelsmann is also capable of rotating his team successfully, making it increasingly difficult for Liverpool to predict who will line-up for the German side.
The Leipzig coach tends to favour his beloved 3-4-2-1 formation, though attacking players such as Christopher Nkunku and Emil Forsberg can appear anywhere in midfield or the front line.
SOLID RECORD AGAINST THE BIG SIDES
Liverpool should be wary of Leipzig’s threats in their last-16 tie, especially considering how Nagelsmann’s side have inflicted a lot of harm on several Premier League sides in recent years.
Manchester United felt the full force of Leipzig’s attacking woes by going down 3-0 to the Bundesliga side earlier this season, ultimately losing 3-2 which knocked them out of the Champions League.
Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League by Leipzig earlier this season
The Bundesliga side also knocked out Tottenham from last year’s competitions in the last-16
Tottenham also faced elimination at the hands of Leipzig in the last-16 stage last season, with Jose Mourinho’s side going down 4-0 on aggregate over two legs.
Leipzig will, of course, be concerned by Liverpool’s attacking qualities but the German side have history of beating the bigger sides in Europe too.
Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid have both ended up on the losing side to Leipzig over the past 12 months, meaning Klopp should leave no room for complacency against their Champions League rivals.
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