Liverpool v RB Leipzig
Wednesday 10 March, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2
Reds scrambling for signs of revival
After defeat to Fulham on Sunday, Liverpool’s sixth straight league reverse on home soil, Jürgen Klopp described his side’s situation as extreme. It’s hard to disagree – the champions of England have lost more Premier League matches since the start of February than they did in the entirety of the two previous campaigns.
This is a gut-wrenching fall from grace for a side that conquered on domestic, continental and global stages.
Although a top-four finish in the league isn’t beyond the Reds, most of their rivals have games in hand and are in better form. It seems that Liverpool’s best route into next season’s Champions League is to win this term’s competition, and they are rated as fourth favourites to do that in the Winner market, trading at 9.89/1 with Manchester City, Bayern and PSG priced shorter.
Liverpool capitalised on RB Leipzig’s errors to win the “away” leg in Budapest 2-0, but they must now perform well again, and there remain huge concerns. In attack, the Infogol Expected Goals figures show that Klopp’s side have put up figures of 0.32 and 0.98 in their last two games, and they have failed to score in three of their last four outings.
In defence, even the bare bones are crumbling to dust, and Liverpool require backups for the backups. Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Jordan Henderson are all out. Ozan Kabak is struggling with a knock, so relative rookie Nat Phillips could partner converted midfielder Fabinho at centre-back.
Nagelsmann eyes famous comeback
Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann has a fire within him that is burning more brightly than ever, and while he admits that not many people think his side can turn this tie around, he and his players fully believe a comeback is possible. They aren’t the type of team to hang in there and hope to grab a goal – the Red Bulls will charge, and will play in an attacking style.
RB didn’t show themselves in the best light in the first leg. Having started well and struck a post early on, two massive errors turned the tie in Liverpool’s favour. The usually-dependable Marcel Sabotzer gifted the ball to Mohamed Salah for the opener, and Dayot Upamecano missed a simple ball to allow Sadio Mane to rattle in the second.
Such errors are rare – Leipzig have the best defensive record in the Bundesliga, and they have lost just three times in the Bundesliga. Nagelsmann’s side is two points off the top in the league and into the semi-finals of the DFB Cup, so it could still be a glorious campaign.
Sabitzer missed Saturday’s impressive 3-0 win at Freiburg because of suspension, but he is far from guaranteed to return to the team after a run of poor form. Rampaging left-back Angelino has been struggling with a muscle injury, while centre-back Willi Orban broke a bone in his hand in the recent cup win over Wolfsburg, and remains a doubt.
Reds are poor value to take second leg
Like the first game, this match will be played at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, and I can’t get excited about backing Liverpool in the Match Odds market at 2.486/4. It’s a team short of rhythm and confidence, and although they took advantage of errors from Leipzig in the first meeting, it was far from a classic Liverpool display.
Having reached last season’s semi-finals, and dumped out Manchester United in a must-win group-stage game in this campaign, Leipzig aren’t short of belief. Since they lost the first leg, they have reeled off four wins in a row.
Alternatively, you could use the Sportsbook’s Same Game Multi to double up Over 1.5 Goals with an RB Leipzig/Draw Double Chance bet at 1.8810/11. That opens up 1-1 and 2-2 draws, or Leipzig wins like 2-0, 2-1 or 3-0. Leipzig have to go for it, and I can’t see the game being short on goals.
Surging Sorloth is worth a look
Leipzig striker and Crystal Palace legend Alexander Sorloth has had quite a renaissance in the last fortnight. He scored a last-gasp winner in a remarkable 3-2 comeback win over Borussia Mönchengladbach, he then set up the opening goal in a 2-0 success against Wolfsburg, and on Saturday he grabbed a goal and an assist. He is likely to start against Liverpool, and he is 11/5 to score at any time.
Christopher Nkunku has scored in his last two Bundesliga games, and is in sparkling form – he’s priced at 10/3 to score and 3/1 to get an assist. The Frenchman has set up 17 goals in the Bundesliga since the start of last season, and has two assists in this term’s Champions League.
Ahead of the second leg, I successfully tipped Mo Salah to score at odds-against, and although he is priced at evens here, he’s worth considering again. He had plenty of joy in behind Angelino in the first leg, and looks by far Liverpool’s sharpest attacking player this season.