An out-of-form Liverpool head to Budapest to face RB Leipzig on Tuesday evening, in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
RB Leipzig vs. Liverpool
Tuesday, February 16, 2021 – 8pm (GMT)
Puskas Arena, Budapest
Champions League Last-16 First Leg
Referee: Slavko Vincic (SVN)
Just when you thought the Reds were turning a corner, their latest capitulation occurred.
Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Leicester was a particularly difficult one to stomach, considering they were the better team for large chunks and took a second-half lead.
The manner of their collapse was again concerning, however, as was the case at home to Man City the previous weekend.
Previously, Liverpool were a team who would overcome any challenge thrown at them, but they are now wilting when any kind of obstacle stands before them.
With their Premier League title hopes gone, the Champions League is now the only competition Jurgen Klopp‘s side can win this season.
Tuesday’s clash with a dangerous Leipzig team promises to be another huge test, with Liverpool desperately in need to getting over their current malaise.
Budapest’s Puskas Arena hosts the game, due to COVID-19’s continued impact on the world, with the second leg potentially being played away from Anfield, too.
Avoiding defeat has to be the primary aim for Liverpool, but if they can come away with a win, it would feel like a huge momentum boost.
The injury problems continue to mount up for Klopp, with James Milner the latest addition to the treatment table.
The 35-year-old picked up a hamstring issue at Leicester, meaning he is expected to be missing for the foreseeable future.
Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are all sidelined for the rest of the season, while Fabinho, Naby Keita and Diogo Jota are also still out.
Such are the lack of options at Klopp’s disposal, most of the starting lineup against Leipzig appears to pick itself.
Alisson should continue in goal, despite another mishap at the weekend, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ozan Kabak, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson look the likely back four.
Ben Davies and Nat Phillips are also centre-back options, allowing Henderson to play in midfield, but a start for either doesn’t look on the cards.
In midfield, Gini Wijnaldum, Thiago and Curtis Jones should all play, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also available.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are all expected to start a game of such magnitude.
As for Leipzig, Emil Forsberg, Konrad Laimer, Benjamin Henrichs and Dominik Szoboszlai could all miss out and ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi will start.
Possible LFC XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Henderson, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Mane, Firmino.
Leipzig go into the tie full of confidence, having won their last four matches, in all competitions.
Led by 33-year-old wunderkind Julian Nagelsmann – widely considered one of Europe’s most exciting young managers – they currently sit second in the Bundesliga, four points adrift of leaders Bayern Munich.
Leipzig’s cente-back duo Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate will be known to many Liverpool supporters, considering both have been linked with moves to Anfield this summer.
Upamecano agreed to join Bayern over the weekend, however, but Konate still looks a primary target. If he starts, this will be a great chance to see him up close.
In terms of other key men, Marcel Sabitzer is a dominant performer in Leipzig’s midfield, while Yussuf Poulsen and Christopher Nkunku are attacking threats.
Nagelsmann’s men reached the semi-finals in last season’s Champions League, losing to PSG, highlighting their ever-increasing pedigree in the competition.
Read more about Leipzig’s strengths and tactics HERE.
Did You Know?
Away from Liverpool’s woes, someone who is having an excellent individual season is Salah.
Granted, the Egyptian superstar hasn’t been blameless amid the Reds’ struggles in the final third, but one statistic sums up his world-class quality.
Salah’s brilliantly-taken effort against Leicester took his goal tally to 23 for the season in all competitions, meaning he has already matched his total from 2019/20.
Liverpool’s No.11 reached that amount in 48 appearances last time around, whereas he has only played 33 times to date in this campaign.
Salah is an obsessive goalscorer and he will believe he can get to 40 goals by May.
RB Leipzig – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 2-1 vs. Augsburg
Won 3-0 vs. Schalke
Won 4-0 vs. VfL Bochum
Won 1-0 vs. Leverkusen
Lost 3-2 vs. Mainz
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Lost 3-1 vs. Leicester
Lost 4-1 vs. Man City
Lost 1-0 vs. Brighton
Won 3-1 vs. West Ham
Won 3-1 vs. Tottenham
Speaking in his press conference, Klopp was on superb form, saying his appetite remains huge, despite daft rumours that he was going to quit over the weekend:
“The last thing I want to do is talk about private things. But everybody knows. Privately it was a tougher time but it was not three weeks ago, it was a longer time already and we deal with it as a family 100 per cent.
“When I came here to the football club to do the work – I’m 53, I can split things, I can switch off one thing and the other. I don’t carry things around, if I’m private then I’m private. If I’m in football then I’m here.
“Of course we are influenced by what happens but nobody has to worry or whatever. I might not look like this, because the weather is not cool and I’m white and the beard gets more grey and I don’t sleep a lot, but I’m full of energy.
“I see it as a challenge, an interesting challenge. We will sort it by playing football, sticking even more together, by fighting with all we have and learning more than each season before – that’s the plan we have.”
TV & Liveblog Info
RB Leipzig vs. Liverpool kicks off at 8pm (GMT) and will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport 2. Coverage gets underway at 7pm.
Ben Twelves will be on TIA’s matchday live blog from 7.15pm, keeping you entertained and giving minute-by-minute updates.