RB Leipzig will be aiming for a bright start in the UEFA Champions League when they travel to Estadio da Luz to face SL Benfica on Tuesday.
RB Leipzig will kickstart their 2019/20 UEFA Champions League campaign on Tuesday as they lock horns with SL Benfica at the iconic Estadio da Luz. It’s a perfect setting for a UCL opener as both the teams look to get a headstart in the Group G table, which is evenly balanced with Olympique Lyonnais facing Zenit St. Petersberg in the other fixture.
Leipzig are currently the Bundesliga league leaders, having picked up 10 points from four matches. They had retained an impressive hundred percent winning record before they drew 1-1 at home with German champions Bayern Munich. Die Roten Bullen looked excellent and were almost on the verge of sealing a late victory. As a result, they will come into this game full of confidence.
Benfica, on the other hand, have also enjoyed a bright start to the campaign, winning four of their five matches. A defeat to FC Porto in August remains the only blip in an otherwise fantastic season so far. The Portuguese champions are coming on the back of a comfortable 2-0 victory over Gil Vicente in the last game but are still trailing Famalicao at the top of the table.
Nonetheless, Benfica will look to take full advantage of the home crowd to take an early lead in the group, when they meet Leipzig tomorrow evening. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at the two sides ahead of this fascinating Champions League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Bruno Lage is unlikely to make a lot of changes to the side that secured a win against Gil Vicente on the weekend. Defence, in particular, will likely remain unchanged as Benfica have an ideal backline that has conceded only two goals this season.
Andre Almeida is a guaranteed starter at right-back, and same can be said for Alejandro Grimaldo on the opposite flank, though the 23-year-old faces competition from young Nuno Tavares. Ruben Dias and Ferro are two ever-present figures in the Benfica backline. They are expected to start at the heart of the four-man defensive setup.
Key midfielders Gedson Fernandes and Gabriel are both injured, which means Lage will have to settle for an alternative to start alongside Florentino Luis in the double-pivot. Andreas Samaris is likely to get the nod ahead of Adel Taarabt and Ljubomir Fejsa, who is yet to feature in a single game this season.
Pizzi and Rafa Silva are the two guaranteed starters in the wider attacking/midfield roles. There are no real alternatives aside from Andrija Zivkovic and Franco Cervi. Pizzi has already netted five goals this season and will be the most important member of the Benfica attack.
Finally, the Benfica attack will be spearheaded by former Eintracht Frankfurt star Haris Seferovic. The Swiss international hasn’t quite been able to turn on his scoring boots so far but will be keen to impress against Leipzig this weekend. He will be partnered by former Real Madrid star Raul de Tomas in the secondary striker role.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Vlachodimos; Almeida, Dias, Ferro, Grimaldo; Pizzi, Samaris, Florentino, Silva; de Tomas, Seferovic
RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann employed a defensive five at the back formation against Bayern Munich on Saturday. But, he will revert to his preferred 3-5-2 setup, with two attacking wing-backs in Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg providing the threat going forward.
Star defender Dayot Upamecano is out injured, which means right-back Nordi Mukiele will once again deputise for the Frenchman in central defence. He will be partnered by Willi Orban and Ibrahima Konate, forming the three-man backline.
Konrad Laimer was given a surprise start against Bayern. But, the Austrian impressed, though he will likely make way for Diego Demme, who will operate in a deeper role. Emil Forsberg could be given a breather this week, paving the way for Christopher Nkunku to start in midfield.
The ex-PSG star has made an impression in the Bundesliga and will look to make a statement in Europe as well. He will be partnered by Marcel Sabitzer, the only Leipzig player who is likely to retain his place in midfield from the side that drew with Bayern Munich.
Elsewhere, Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen are guaranteed starters in the attack. They will spearhead the Leipzig offence. Werner’s pace and dynamism coupled with Poulsen’s physique and aerial prowess could cause problems for Benfica.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Gulacsi; Konate, Orban, Mukiele; Klostermann, Sabitzer, Demme, Nkunku, Halstenberg; Werner, Poulsen
- This will be the first-ever competitive meeting between Benfica and RB Leipzig.
- In the last two seasons, Benfica have been outscored 7-25 in the UEFA Champions League; collecting just seven points from a possible 36 – all of which came in 2018-19 campaign.
- There were 21 scored in RB Leipzig’s six Champions League matches in 2017-18 season, at an average of 3.5 per game. They were one of four teams that season to both score and concede 10+ goals in the group stage, along with Porto, Napoli and Sevilla.
- RB Leipzig have won just three of their 12 European away games in all competitions but have only conceded two more goals than they have scored themselves on the road.
- Benfica are Portugal’s sole representatives in the UEFA Champions League this season, and this is the first time since 2009/10 campaign that there is only one Portuguese club in the competition.
Player to Watch
Champions League has been the only tournament that has always eluded Werner so far. And the German international will be desperate to make a statement this time around. He has already netted five goals in the Bundesliga this season.
Werner will operate alongside Poulsen in the two-man Leipzig attack. Both of them will play a key role in the first line of press. It will be interesting to see how Werner manages to get past the imposing Dias in the Benfica backline.
But one thing is for certain – Leipzig’s fate in this encounter will more or less depend on the performances of Werner and Poulsen as they aim to register an away win this midweek.
SL Benfica 0-2 RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig historically haven’t done quite well in the Champions League in their short club history. But, under the leadership of Nagelsmann, they have looked like a completely different and more versatile unit, who are ready to take on even the big guns of European football. Hence, we expect the Bundesliga giants to seal a comprehensive 2-0 victory against Benfica tomorrow.