Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Prediction: Real Madrid vs RB Leipzig

Verdict: Home win

Best odds: 4/7

Bookmaker: Betfair

Motivated by a perceived sense of injustice from the previous weekend, Real Madrid will be determined to finish the task against RB Leipzig in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s squad enters their home ground with a narrow 1-0 lead from the first leg three weeks ago, a lead that is hardly insurmountable for their Bundesliga counterparts to overcome.

Real Madrid

In the absence of Jude Bellingham due to an ankle injury, Brahim Diaz emerged as a standout performer at the Red Bull Arena, sealing the first leg of their last-16 showdown with a remarkable solo effort. Diaz skillfully maneuvered through Leipzig defence, elegantly finding the top corner with his strike.

Despite the victory, Ancelotti’s side faced numerous threats from the attack-minded hosts, particularly from Benjamin Sesko. However, a combination of Leipzig’s profligacy, resolute defending, and outstanding saves from Andriy Lunin ensured that Los Blancos returned home with a slender lead.

In the following three weeks, Real’s form in La Liga has been mixed, with only one win in their last three matches. They settled for a 1-1 draw against Rayo Vallecano and secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Sevilla before encountering refereeing controversy in their match against Valencia. Despite trailing 2-0, Real Madrid managed to salvage a point, with Bellingham appearing to have scored a late winner with a header. However, the goal was disallowed due to the referee’s whistle blowing just as Diaz delivered his cross into the box. This decision led to vehement protests from Real Madrid, resulting in Bellingham receiving a red card for his comments to the referee.

Now reeling from the fallout of this contentious decision, although still maintaining a comfortable seven-point lead over Girona at the top of the La Liga standings, Real will be determined to avoid just their second elimination from 21 Champions League ties where they won the first leg. Their only previous such exit occurred against Ajax in the 2018/19 last 16.

Team News

While facing domestic consequences for his sending-off against Valencia, Bellingham is cleared to feature against Leipzig. However, he needs to be cautious as he is one booking away from a Champions League suspension.

Eduardo Camavinga is in a similar situation, but he is expected to start regardless of his disciplinary status.

In terms of injuries, the only concerns for Ancelotti ahead of the second leg are David Alaba, Thibaut Courtois, and Eder Militao, who are all sidelined with ACL injuries. Courtois and Militao are expected to return next month.

RB Leipzig

When Real were beaten by Ajax, Erik ten Hag’s team staged an impressive comeback from a one-goal deficit at home, securing a remarkable 4-1 victory at the Bernabeu. Now, Leipzig must replicate the success of their Eredivisie counterparts if they hope to extend their Champions League journey at the expense of the tournament’s most decorated team.

Although Marco Rose’s side had opportunities to breach the Blancos’ defence at the Red Bull Arena on February 13th, they were ultimately let down by a lack of clinical finishing. However, they demonstrated their attacking prowess in a convincing 4-1 Bundesliga victory over VfL Bochum over the weekend.

Despite conceding an early free-kick goal, Leipzig responded emphatically with goals from Dani Olmo, Lois Openda, Yussuf Poulsen, and an Ivan Ordets own goal. However, Leipzig’s recent winter form has been inconsistent, with the victory over Bochum marking only their third win in 10 competitive matches. They currently trail Borussia Dortmund by one point in the Bundesliga standings, sitting fifth.

Leipzig’s struggles extend to the Champions League, where they have failed to win any of their last six knockout games, dating back to the 2019/20 season. A defeat in the second leg at the Bernabeu would result in their third last-16 exit in four seasons.

In their previous encounter at Real Madrid’s home ground during the 2022/23 group stage, Leipzig suffered a 2-0 loss, conceding second-half goals from Federico Valverde and Marco Asensio.

Team News

Rose will be forced into making a change, as French defender Mohamed Simakan received his third booking of the tournament in the first leg and will be unavailable for the trip to the Spanish capital.

Simakan, who started on the bench against Bochum, will be replaced by Castello Lukeba and Willi Orban, who are expected to form an unchanged defensive partnership in front of goalkeeper Gulacsi, recently recovered from an abdominal strain. Lukas Klostermann, the only injury concern for Leipzig, is still recovering from a hip issue.

In midfield, Xaver Schlager is set to return after a Bundesliga suspension, likely reclaiming his spot in the midfield over Nicolas Seiwald.

Upfront, Openda, who scored his 17th Bundesliga goal of the season as a substitute against Bochum, is poised to replace Christoph Baumgartner and partner Sesko. Sesko, despite missing three significant chances in the first-leg loss to Ancelotti’s team, is expected to retain his place in the starting lineup.

Conclusion

Real Madrid’s opponents typically face an uphill battle after Los Blancos secure a victory in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie, and Wednesday’s encounter should be no exception, especially considering Leipzig’s inconsistent form since the start of the year.

While Rose’s men may have a chance of breaching Lunin’s goal if their finishing mirrors that of their weekend performance rather than the first leg, a motivated Real Madrid side is capable of responding with even greater intensity to secure their spot in the quarterfinals. Moreover, a victory in this match would mark their eighth consecutive Champions League win, equalling their longest-ever streak in one season.

Verdict: Home win

Best odds: 4/7

Bookmaker: Betfair

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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