RB Leipzig will look to go all out for a win and secure a knockout spot when they host SL Benfica at the Red Bull Arena on Wednesday.
With Matchday 5 of the group stage of the UEFA Champions League coming to a close, RB Leipzig will like to cement their place in the knockout stages when they host SL Benfica, who need back-to-back wins to progress to the next round.
Considering Leipzig’s panache in the attack, Julian Nagelsmann has backed his young side to storm past most teams in Group G. Die Rotten Bullen are at the top of the table in the group and are coming to this game on the back of two thumping victories in the Bundesliga.
On the other hand, it has not been a smooth ride for Benfica this season according to their standards. The Eagles have struggled to churn out results and their only win this season in Europe came against Lyon at home. Therefore they are in a tight spot and winning the last two games may be the only route possible for Bruno Lage’s men to qualify for the Round of 16.
In the reverse fixture at Estadio da Luz, Leipzig managed a 2-1 win over Benfica. All the action in the match happened in the second half, with Timo Werner scoring a brace and Haris Seferovic pulling one back right at the end.
Tactics and Formations
Julian Nagelsmann will look to continue the attacking blueprint he has set for his young but fearless Leipzig side. A 4-2-2-2 formation can be in place for Die Rotten Bullen, with the experienced Peter Gulasci being the mainstay in goal.
Dayot Upamecano is doubtful for the match due to an ankle injury, while Stefan Ilsanker is ineligible to feature in the Champions League. Chelsea loanee Christian Ampadu is set to start, with the German duo of Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg starting in the full-back positions.
In midfield, Konrad Laimer and Diego Demme will sit deep and allow the full-backs to venture forward. Meanwhile, Emil Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer will provide creativity in the middle of the park. While Sabitzer is more of a tireless player, Forsberg will look to orchestrate play and create openings for the front men. Kevin Kampl can also be an option as he is pushing for a start after recovering from his injury.
Timo Werner will lead the line for Leipzig and Christopher Nkunku will be his partner in crime upfront. A highly mobile formation which on their day can run riot against any opposition in Europe.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Gulasci; Klostermann, Upamecano, Ampadu, Halstenberg; Laimer, Demme; Sabitzer, Forsberg; Nkunku, Werner.
Bruno Lage has some injury woes as the Portuguese tactician will miss star forward Haris Seferovic owing to a calf injury. Lage is set to continue with his balanced 4-4-2 formation, with Greek custodian Odisseas Vlachodimos manning the goal. Andre Almeida and Alex Grimaldo have been the mainstays on the flanks, with Ruben Dias and Ferro forming the central defensive pairing.
In midfield, Pizzi and Franco Cervi will add pace to the side from the flanks, with Gabriel Pires and Florentino Luis sitting in the middle and trying and break up the play. However, the inexperience of playing in tight European games is scarce, which is costing Lage’s side as a whole.
Gedson Fernandes is also an option and may come into the game later in the second half. Upfront, Carlos Vinicius will walk into the side in place of Seferovic and the onus will be on him to find the back of the net for the Eagles.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Vlachodimos; Almeida, Dias, Ferro, Grimaldo; Pizzi, Luis, Pires, Cervi; de Tomas, Vinicius
- Benfica have lost all of their last five matches in Germany in European competitions (one in the Europa League and four in the Champions League), with the last win coming way back in 2013 against Bayer Leverkusen.
- This is only the second meeting between RB Leipzig and SL Benfica, the first being the reverse fixture, wherein Leipzig were 2-1 winners, with Timo Werner scored a brace.
- Leipzig have locked horns with Portuguese opposition three times, winning two of those games (L1).
- Should they win, it will be the first instance that Leipzig would have won three consecutive games in European competitions.
- If Leipzig beat Benfica, the Eagles will become only the second team to register more than one defeat against Die Roten Bullen in European competitions, apart from Zenit St. Petersburg (3 losses).
Player to Watch
The young German forward is in red hot form and having scored twice in the reverse fixture, the 23-year-old will look to replicate that performance at home as well. He has already scored 16 goals along with seven assists in all competitions, therefore proving that Werner is the linchpin in attack for Leipzig.
His feats in Bundesliga is very well known, but now, Werner needs to prove his worth in the bigger stages in Europe. Therefore, this will be a great opportunity for him to add to his tally and take his team to the knockouts.
RB Leipzig 3-1 SL Benfica
Both teams are in great form domestically. Benfica are top of the table in Portugal ahead of Porto and Sporting CP. But Leipzig’s destructive form in the Bundesliga is something which Bruno Lage needs to be wary of. Also, considering Benfica’s porous defence, it looks like the Eagles will have a tough time managing the attacking onslaught throughout the game.
Leipzig, under Julian Nagelsmann, are fearless and have a lot of potential in all aspects of the field. But, their ability to outscore their opposition is something which makes them very dangerous. Therefore only based on form, The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for the hosts, which means a Round of 16 spot for them and also an advantage in topping the group.