RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain will lock horns in the first semi-final of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League at Estadio da Luz on Tuesday night.
After an action-packed fortnight of football, we are in the penultimate stage of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League. The first of the two blockbuster semi-finals will be played out at Estadio da Luz, with German outfit RB Leipzig set to take on French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
It has been a spectacular season for Leipzig. Under Julian Nagelsmann, they finished third in the Bundesliga while topping Group G of the UEFA Champions League ahead of Lyon, Benfica and Zenit St. Petersburg. Die Roten Bullen eased past Tottenham Hotspur in the Round of 16, with a 4-0 aggregate scoreline.
Leipzig then went on to eliminate Spanish giants Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals, beating them 2-1 courtesy goals from Dani Olmo and Tyler Adams. Making a semi-final appearance for the first time ever in the club’s history, they will be aiming to go all the way in the competition.
PSG, too, have enjoyed another dominant campaign domestically, while also showing signs of progressing on the continental stages. Thomas Tuchel’s men won their group, which included Real Madrid, Club Brugge and Galatasaray, quite comfortably. But they were made to work hard by Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16 stage.
Drawn up against Atalanta in the quarter-finals, it seemed like history would repeat itself again as PSG trailed the Italians until the 90th minute. But stoppage time goals from Marquinhos and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting meant Les Parisiens pulled off a miraculous comeback to qualify for the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 1994/95.
Ahead of this mouth-watering fixture coming our way from Lisbon, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Julian Nagelsmann will be unable to call upon defender Ibrahima Konate, who is recovering from a hip problem. New signings Hwang Hee-chan and Benjamin Henrichs have arrived at the club, but are ineligible to feature. The manager is unlikely to make a lot of changes to the side that got past Atletico Madrid last time out.
Peter Gulacsi is the undisputed starter in goal for Leipzig. He will be shielded by a three-man backline comprising of Lukas Klostermann, Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Halstenberg.
Manchester City loanee Angelino is a certain starter as the left wing-back, while Tyler Adams, who scored the winning goal last time out, may be rewarded with a start as the right wing-back, with his selection coming at the expense of Konrad Laimer.
Marcel Sabitzer and Kevin Kampl ought to be the two central midfielders. The latter will look to break up PSG from building up play, while the former will be given the license to push forward and support the attacking midfield duo of Christopher Nkunku, who will be playing against his former club, and Dani Olmo.
With Timo Werner gone, Yussuf Poulsen is likely to get the nod as the lone centre-forward, although Patrik Schick is pushing for a starting berth as well.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Klostermann, Upamecano, Halstenberg; Adams, Sabitzer, Kampl, Angelino; Olmo, Nkunku; Poulsen
PSG have been dealt a major blow as goalkeeper Keylor Navas will miss the semi-finals after coming off with an injury in the game against Atalanta. Elsewhere, the French champions will also be without key midfielder Marco Verratti, who missed the last game as well. Laywin Kurzawa is also absent for Thomas Tuchel’s side.
Much like his opposite number, Tuchel also is likely to keep changes to the side at a bare minimum. With Navas out injured, Sergio Rico is expected to slot in as the goalkeeper. He will seek protection from a backline comprising of Thilo Kehrer and Juan Bernat as the full-backs, with Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe at the centre.
Marquinhos has been largely used in the No. 6 role by the manager and that is unlikely to change on Tuesday night. The Brazilian will be helped in the defensive phase of the game by Idrissa Gueye, while Ander Herrera will provide the industry in the centre of the park.
Kylian Mbappe made a substitute appearance against Atalanta after having recovered from an injury. The Frenchman should be in line for a start on the right flank, while fellow star forward Neymar should feature on the left. Mauro Icardi will lead the line for PSG, with the likes of Pablo Sarabia and Angel Di Maria providing options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Rico; Kehrer, Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat; Herrera, Marquinhos, Gueye; Mbappe, Icardi, Neymar
- This will be the first ever competitive meeting between RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain.
- Both RB Leipzig and PSG are aiming to reach their first ever Champions League/European Cup final.
- PSG have progressed from each of their three previous European knockout ties against German opposition, including in the ongoing season, when they eliminated Borussia Dortmund at the Round of 16 stage.
- RB Leipzig are unbeaten in their last seven Champions League matches (W5 D2), after having lost four of their first eight in the competition (W3 D1).
- PSG forward Kylian Mbappe has bee directly involved in 10 goals in 8 Champions League appearances this season (5 goals and assists each).
Player to Watch
The 28-year-old Brazilian put on one of his finest displays in a PSG shirt last time out against Atalanta, playing a huge role in their comeback win against the Italians. He may not have scored a goal on the night, but it was Neymar who set Marquinhos up for the equaliser, before he combined with Kylian Mbappe to create the chance for the second goal.
Having been at the receiving end of criticism for his attitude and lifestyle, Neymar is finally showing the maturity and the kind of leadership that was expected of him when he was signed in a world-record deal three years ago.
The 28-year-old was signed with the hope that he would be the one that will lead PSG to the European crown. And, if he is able to build upon his performance from the last match, it may well turn out to be the year of the Parisians.
RB Leipzig 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain
RB Leipzig have been on a fairy-tale run in the Champions League this season. However, they will be squaring up against a PSG side that will now be near full-strength, with Kylian Mbappe back to full fitness and Angel Di Maria returning from suspension. And given the form that Neymar is in, it might just prove to be a tad too much for the Germans to cope with.
Nevertheless, we can expect a tight encounter between the two teams in Lisbon. But, a much-superior attacking contingent might swing it in favour of PSG. Thus, The Hard Tackle is predicting a 2-1 win for Thomas Tuchel & co., booking a place in the final.