Both RB Leipzig and Rangers are looking to maintain their dream run in Europe as they lock horns in east Germany this midweek.

RB Leipzig play hosts to Rangers at the Red Bull Arena on Thursday, in what is set to serve as the first leg of their semi-final encounter in the UEFA Europa League.

Following the appointment of Domenico Tedesco, Leipzig have been in astonishing form in all competitions. They are well on their way to securing a top-four finish in the Bundesliga come May while Die Roten Bullen have also reached the final of the DFB Pokal.

In the Europa League, Leipzig were quite lucky to get away with a free pass against Spartak Moscow in the Round of 16, but they have overcome the challenges from Real Sociedad and Atalanta on their route to the semis and are currently among the favourites to win the competition.

In Rangers, though, the Bundesliga giants could find themselves a tough opponent who have beaten their German rivals Borussia Dortmund. The Scottish champions have also beaten Red Star and SC Braga on their way to the semi-finals and will be hoping to earn a slender lead before welcoming Leipzig at Ibrox in the second leg.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their enticing match-up at the Red Bull Arena on Thursday.

Team News & Tactics

RB Leipzig

RB Leipzig head coach Domenico Tedesco has three key players in Kevin Kampl, Willi Orban and Mohamed Simakan suspended for this tie while Amadou Haidara is struggling with a knee injury. It could serve as a massive blow for the home side, knowing they are up against a Rangers side who can take full advantage of any given opportunity.

Especially in the defensive unit, the absence of Orban and Simakan will force Tedesco to deploy Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg in the back three, alongside the usual starter in Josko Gvardiol. The Croatian international may have to operate in a central role, meaning he won’t have the luxury to move forward with the ball.

In midfield, the absence of Kampl could see Tedesco relying on the services of Konrad Laimer and Tyler Adams in the double-pivot, with Benjamin Henrichs and Angelino operating as wing-backs. Henrichs may operate deeper than usual, helping out the back three whenever required.

Angelino, on the other hand, may play a vital role in Leipzig’s creative game. His link-up play with the attackers, including the in-form Christopher Nkunku could go a long way in helping the hosts pick the Rangers’ defence apart.

Apart from Nkunku, Dani Olmo and Andre Silva are expected to spearhead the line for Leipzig, although Tedesco also has the option of deploying Dominik Szoboszlai and Emil Forsberg, who recently scored a crucial goal in the DFB Pokal semi-final victory over Union Berlin.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Klostermann, Gvardiol, Halstenberg; Henrichs, Adams, Laimer, Angelino; Nkunku, Olmo; Silva

Rangers

Rangers are having a few absentees of their own, including star striker Alfredo Morelos. His absence in this contest could be a blow for the visitors as his physical and aerial prowess could have caused a lot of problems for Leipzig’s makeshift defence.

In addition to Morelos, Rangers are likely missing Ianis Hagi, Kemar Roofe and Filip Helander while Aaron Ramsey is unlikely to play as well, thanks to his hamstring issue.

Such a large number of absentees mean coach Giovanni van Brockhorst will have to make certain adjustments to his favoured starting eleven. Morelos, for one, could be replaced by Fashion Sakala, who could accompany Joe Aribo and the exciting Ryan Kent in the Rangers frontline.

Midfield is arguably the strongest point for Rangers, with Glen Kamara complementing two hard-working operators in Ryan Jack and John Lundstram.

Defensively, Calvin Bassey has been a rising star for Rangers this season. His dogged defensive nature is going to be critical in stopping Nkunku in his tracks. But he would require additional assistance from Connor Goldson, Leon Balogun and the captain James Tavernier, as they look to cover the veteran Allan McGregor in goal.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Bassey; Kamara, Lundstram, Jack; Aribo, Sakala, Kent

Key Stats

  • RB Leipzig have reached a UEFA semi-final for the second time in three seasons, having lost 3-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the last four of the Champions League in 2019/20.
  • Leipzig’s 16-game unbeaten streak in all competitions was ended by Union Berlin on Saturday. Before that, they hadn’t lost since a 3-2 defeat at Bayern Munich in early February.
  • This will be the first European meeting between the two clubs. Leipzig’s only previous games against Scottish opposition came in the group stage of the 2018/19 Europa League. They played Rangers’ bitter rivals Celtic twice, winning 2-0 at home and losing 2-1 away.
  • Rangers, on the other hand, have played 49 European games against German opposition, and have a very balanced record: 17 wins, 15 draws and 17 losses. They eliminated Dortmund in the knockout round playoffs in February.
  • Rangers have won just two of their last 24 matches in European competitions to German opposition, although one of those victories came against Dortmund earlier this year.

Player to Watch

Christopher Nkunku

 

Christopher Nkunku has been one of the best performers in all of Europe this season. Indeed, the Frenchman has struck 30 goals in all competitions this term, even though his previous career-high for a season was only seven.

Ten of Nkunku’s goals have come in Europe, including a brace against Atalanta that helped Leipzig reach the semis. As Die Roten Bullen host Rangers this midweek, Nkunku will be desperate to further enhance his goalscoring tally and make a strong case for a host of European clubs eyeing his progress this season.

From a tactical perspective, Nkunku is known for his ability to make runs in behind the defence or release players doing the same. So it will be essential for Rangers to play with a deep backline, although the Frenchman is equally impressive when it comes to playing with his back to goal.

Prediction

RB Leipzig 2-1 Rangers

RB Leipzig impressively beat Atalanta, who were one of the favourites to lift the UEFA Europa League this season, in the quarter-finals. Under Domenico Tedesco, the Germans have looked like an organised team, with an excellent second line of press and even more impressive attacking unit revved up by the man in form, Christopher Nkunku.

However, in Rangers, they could find themselves a tricky opponent who won’t take anything for granted and could cause problems for their makeshift backline. We are thus expecting a close match-up with Leipzig edging the result slightly before travelling to Ibrox for the second leg.

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