Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 8/11
Liverpool will officially be playing host to RB Leipzig in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 clash after winning the first 0-2 away, even though the game will actually be played at the Puskas Arena in Budapest – the same place as the first leg – due to the travel restrictions imposed by Germany in the light of the ongoing pandemic.
Despite Liverpool’s advantage from the first leg, it should be an interesting contest given the vast difference in recent form between the two teams, which heavily favours the Bundesliga side.
The Merseysiders have been the talk of the football world in recent months, but not in a way they would like. They topped the Premier League at Christmas, but then the injuries their players suffered, particularly centre-backs, started producing massive consequences on the results with manager Jurgen Klopp forced to constantly chop and change his lineups, as well as to shift players from midfield to fill the gaps in the heart of defence.
At the moment, Liverpool are in eighth place in the English top flight and it seems they will not be playing in the Champions League next season, unless they yet manage somehow to win it this term against all odds. Even a place in the Europa League won’t be easy to secure, with 43 points to their name – three less than neighbours Everton in sixth place and two less than Tottenham Hotspur, who both have a game in hand.
Liverpool’s results in last six games in all competitions make a grim reading for their supporters – 0-2 triumphs in the first leg against Leipzig and away to rock-bottom side Sheffield United, and four defeats: 3-1 away to Leicester City, 0-2 at home against Everton, 0-1 at home against Chelsea and 0-1 at home against relegation battlers Fulham.
The slump the team currently are going through prompted some speculative suggestions that Klopp could soon leave the club, but more reliable sources say otherwise.
Liverpool have four players ruled out likely for the season, three of which are centre-backs – Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, and they’ve recently been joined on that list by captain Jordan Henderson. Newcomer Ozan Kabak missed the Fulham game through a minor knock and should be back for this one, but forward Roberto Firmino, who also didn’t play against the Cottagers, could be out again.
Roberto Firmino missing from Liverpool training with knee problem. Doubtful for RB Leipzig game.
— paul joyce (@_pauljoyce) March 9, 2021
Right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and midfielder Thiago Alcantara were on the bench against Fulham, and they should be back in the lineup for this one.
Things could hardly be more different for Leipzig right now. Julian Nagelsmann, often dubbed ‘the next Klopp’, has put together a very good team, despite the fact that the club have been losing their best players to richer ones continuously in the last few years.
At the moment, Leipzig are in second place in the Bundesliga with 53 points, just two less than champions Bayern Munich, and they are the only team that seems capable of giving the Bavarians a proper fight for the title this term. Those below – Wolfsburg (45 points), Eintracht Frankfurt (43), Bayer Leverkusen (40) and Borussia Dortmund (39) – will have to settle for a fight for the remaining European places.
Leipzig won five and lost one of their last six games in all competitions – a stark contrast to what Liverpool have done, though the only defeat came precisely at the hands of Liverpool in the first leg. Other than that, they beat Augsburg 2-1 at home, Hertha 0-3 in Berlin, Borussia Monchengladbach 3-2 at home, Wolfsburg 2-0 at home and SC Freiburg 0-3 away.
Leipzig will likely be without left-back Angelino, who missed the last three matches with a thigh problem. Amadou Haidara could replace the former Manchester City man on the flank again, because Marcel Halstenberg has been ruled out. Midfielders Marcel Sabitzer and Willi Orban are doubts as well, while midfielders Konrad Laimer and Dominik Szoboszlai won’t be in contention.
Nagelsmann has a wide range of attackers to choose from, and given that his team need goals, it will be interesting to see the combination he goes for. Alexander Sorloth, Yussuf Poulsen and Hee-chan Hwang will all be hoping to start upfront.
It’s really hard to call the winner of a match like this in advance. The venue where it’s being played obviously counts for nothing, which will come in nicely for Liverpool whose home run has been particularly woeful. Liverpool already won the contest between these teams once, and they’ll do whatever they can to do it again, while Leipzig will seek the best way to take advantage of the Premier League champions’ slump.
With no time to waste, Leipzig will probably hit Liverpool’s makeshift defence with everything they’ve got straight away, leaving in turn a lot of space in behind for the Reds’ pacey attackers to exploit. There should be several goals in this one.
Verdict: Total goals over 2.5
Best odds: 8/11
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