Preview: Liverpool vs. RB Leipzig

Preview: Liverpool vs. RB Leipzig

Liverpool and RB Leipzig will return to the Puskas Arena in Budapest for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday evening.

The Reds come into the match boasting a 2-0 lead from the first leg, which was also held on neutral territory at the same venue, and will hope to put their domestic difficulties to one side and book a quarter-final spot for the third time in four seasons.

Reasons for cheer are few and far between for Liverpool at the moment, but the first leg of this tie on February 16 was a rare high point in 2021 so far.

A 2-0 victory in the ‘away’ leg at the Puskas Arena means that Jurgen Klopp’s side return to Hungary with one foot in the quarter-final, and they have never before been knocked out of this competition after winning away from home in the first leg.

The Reds have also remarkably never lost any of their previous 20 ‘home’ matches against German opposition, winning 16 and drawing four with an aggregate score of 52-9, although it is difficult to class this match amongst the rest given that it takes place in Hungary, while Liverpool have made a habit of setting unwanted history in recent weeks.

Indeed, Klopp and his players are probably pleased that this match is taking place 1,300 miles away from Merseyside given that they have now incredibly lost their last six games at Anfield – the worst run in the club’s 129-year history.

The most recent of those was a 1-0 reverse at the hands of relegation-threatened Fulham on Sunday, meaning that Liverpool are also still without a goal from open play at home this calendar year; their only home goal of any kind in their last seven outings came via the penalty spot in a 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.

All five of Liverpool’s victories this calendar year have come away from Anfield, but their general form also makes for grim reading – six defeats from their last eight matches across all competitions, and nine losses already in 2021.

Eight of those defeats have come in the space of 12 Premier League games – as many as they had suffered in their previous 121 top-flight outings – so Klopp will be hopeful that the Champions League provides some form of respite.

Similar levels of performance will no doubt be similarly punished in Europe, though, and particularly by a Leipzig side that comes into Wednesday’s match in fine form.

It was Leipzig themselves who were punished in the first leg when they gifted Liverpool both goals through errors, but since that defeat they have been faultless with four wins from four.

That run of form has seen Julian Nagelsmann’s side keep the pressure on at the top of the Bundesliga, with only two points separating them from leaders Bayern Munich, as well as advancing to the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal.

A famous turnaround against Liverpool would therefore keep an unlikely treble dream alive, and with eight wins and six clean sheets from their last nine matches across all competitions, they will be confident of their chances of pulling off such a feat.

Should they avoid the same mistakes that hampered their hopes in the first leg then their chances will be greatly improved, although they must also overcome Liverpool’s two away goals, which will still count despite both legs being played at the same stadium.

A repeat of Saturday’s 3-0 win at Freiburg would suffice for the German outfit, who remain relative novices on this stage despite making it all the way to the semi-finals last season.

Certainly, the scalp of six-time winners Liverpool would be one of their biggest yet, and they may not find a better time to take on the Reds in an away tie.

For Liverpool, though, the Champions League is fast becoming the final saving grace of their season, and going all the way could well be their most realistic route back into next season’s competition given their recent league form.

Liverpool Champions League form:
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Liverpool form (all competitions):
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RB Leipzig Champions League form:
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RB Leipzig form (all competitions):
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