Preview: RB Leipzig vs. Liverpool

Budapest’s Puskas Stadium will play host to the first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie between RB Leipzig and Liverpool on Tuesday night.

The first ever competitive meeting between the two sides will be held at the neutral venue due to coronavirus restrictions, and Liverpool will be looking to take advantage of Leipzig’s lack of a home fixture in the two-legged tie.
Plenty has changed for both of these teams since they were last in Champions League action in December, but Liverpool in particular will be hoping that the return of European football will bring about another change in fortune.

The six-time European champions have won just five of their 15 games across all competitions since their final group game, losing six times including each of their last three outings.

The most recent of those – a quickfire collapse against Leicester City on Saturday – saw the defending English champions fall 13 points off the pace set by Manchester City, having played a game more than the leaders.

Such was the damaging nature of the defeat that manager Jurgen Klopp publicly conceded that their title defence is now over, leaving the Champions League as their only remaining route to silverware this season.

However, the likelihood of being crowned kings of Europe for a seventh time appears to diminish with each passing game at the moment, with those three successive defeats to Brighton & Hove Albion, Manchester City and Leicester leaving Liverpool in a serious battle to secure their place in this competition again next season, yet alone win it this term.
With a Merseyside derby looming at the weekend there is no let-up for Liverpool at the moment, and should their poor form continue much longer then their situation could get significantly worse before it gets better again.

The defeat to Leicester was the clearest sign yet that Liverpool are no longer the self-styled ‘mentality monsters’ that have been one of Europe’s most feared teams over the last three years, but their record in this competition will still leave relative novices Leipzig wary.
In terms of pedigree in this competition there could hardly be more between these two sides, and following their run to the semi-finals last season it is easy to forget that this is only Leipzig’s third Champions League campaign, and second experience of the knockout rounds.

Leipzig swept Liverpool’s domestic rivals Tottenham Hotspur aside at this stage last season, before going on to beat Liverpool’s last-16 conquerors Atletico Madrid, and this term they also managed to qualify from a very difficult group.

A 3-2 triumph over Manchester United on matchday six secured their place in the last 16 as runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain, although they conceded 12 goals in the process – the worst record of any team left in the competition.
Since that win over Man United, Leipzig have lost just twice in 13 games across all competitions, keeping nine clean sheets in that time to suggest that those group-stage defensive issues have now been solved.

While their opponents on Tuesday come into this match off the back of three straight defeats, Leipzig go into it having won each of their last four games, most recently beating Augsburg 2-1 on Friday night.

That has lifted them up to second in the Bundesliga standings, four points adrift of perennial leaders Bayern Munich, although that gap could grow when Bayern face Arminia Bielefeld on Monday night.

A second-placed finish would still equal their highest ever league standing, though, while claiming the scalp of Liverpool would be one of the biggest victories in their short European history.

The Reds are unbeaten in their last 10 meetings with German clubs stretching back to 2002, though, while they have won 15 of their previous 17 two-legged ties against Bundesliga opposition.

RB Leipzig Champions League form: WLWLWW
RB Leipzig form (all competitions): WLWWWW

Liverpool Champions League form: WWWLWD
Liverpool form (all competitions): LWWLLL

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