RB Leipzig vs Paris Saint-Germain: Champions League Prediction and Preview
When Paris Saint-Germain brought in Neymar to the Parc des Princes in 2017, the motive was clear – Les Parisiens had to scale the summit of European football by winning the Champions League. After some massively disappointing campaigns, the French champions will take a step closer to that objective but RB Leipzig might play spoilsport.
The German side is making its first appearance in a Champions League semi-final while Le Parisiens return to this stage for the first time after the 1994-95 season. PSG had been eliminated in the Round of 16 for the last three seasons. Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig, meanwhile, have reached the Champions League semis in their first foray into the knockout stage.
The winner of this game at the Estadio da Luz will face the winner of the second semi-final between Olympique Lyonnais and Bayern Munich.
Neymar and Kylian Mbappe inspired PSG to a last gasp win over Atalanta in the quarterfinals.
The Brazilian superstar had fluffed some gilt-edged chances in the first half which would have given Le Parisiens the lead. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side responded by opening the scoring in the 26th minute through Mario Pasalic.
La Dea showed great grit and resolve in holding out the French champions but the introduction of Mbappe and Eric Maxim Choupo-Mouting provided much needed support at the attacking end. The changes paid off as Marquinhos equalized off a Neymar assist in the 90th minute. Three minutes later, Choupo-Mouting turned in a low pass from Mbappe to break Atalanta’s heart.
Where PSG were carried by the excellence of two world class talents, RB Leipzig defeated Atletico Madrid thanks to great teamwork and Nagelsmann’s incredible tactical nous.
With Timo Werner gone, many expected Die Roten Bullen to bow out without much of a fight. The German side, however, surprised everyone with a well-coordinated display that broke down Diego Simeone’s defense.
Dani Olmo broke the deadlock after heading in from Marcel Sabitzer’s cross but RB Leipzig conceded a penalty that was converted by Joao Felix. Two minutes before full-time, substitute Tyler Adams stepped up for Nagelsmann’s side with his deflected shot beating Jan Oblak in goal.
RB Leipzig will be without Ibrahima Kounate who has an injured hip. Hwang Hee-Chan and Benjamin Henrichs cannot feature for them as both are ineligible to appear in the 2019-20 Champions League.
Keylor Navas (thigh) and Layvin Kurzawa (thigh) are expected to miss out.
Thomas Tuchel can call upon Angel di Maria this time out as the Argentine has served his suspension. Marco Verratti will also be assessed but it is unlikely that the Italian midfielder will start.
Dayot Upamecano vs Kylian Mbappe
French defender Dayot Upamecano was the Man of the Match in the quarterfinal win over Atletico Madrid. He was a rock at the back for the East German side and fended off the threat posed by Diego Costa and Marcos Llorente with ease.
Once Atletico Madrid got the technically gifted Joao Felix on the pitch, Upamecano had to recalibrate. While the Frenchman performed admirably, his defensive partners did struggle against Felix’s dribbling and pace.
Those troubles are likely to flare up again when facing the double punch of Mbappe and Neymar.
The French attacker was the game-changer for PSG in the win over Atalanta as La Dea’s defenders were unable to match up to him.
Mbappe’s devastating speed, dribbling ability and composure in front of goal make him the biggest threat for Le Parisiens. Upamecano’s showing against Los Rojiblancos was incredible and if he can keep the Mbappe-Neymar combo at bay, then RB Leipzig stand a chance of reaching the final.
Marcel Sabitzer vs Juan Bernat
With Werner gone, it’s no secret that Leipzig have lost an extremely reliable goalscorer.
The win over Atletico Madrid, however, showed that RB Leipzig can overcome that Werner hole through greater team involvement at the offensive end, which makes Sabitzer a key figure.
The Austrian midfielder provided the cross for Olmo’s opener and in addition to his creativity, he has an eye for goal as well. His high energy will be useful in exploiting open spaces and creating scoring opportunities. He also possesses a solid long-range shot which PSG will have to prevent by reducing space for him to work with.
Sabitzer could be even more effective in this game if Juan Bernat doesn’t rectify the fundamental errors he commits. The Spaniard was primarily at fault for Pasalic’s goal as he left the Serbian completely open in the box to score.
Bernat also likes to be involved at the offensive end which is likely to open space for Sabitzer on the right. The Austrian created a goal for Olmo from the right in the last game, which makes it imperative for Bernat to effectively cover his zone.
Kevin Kampl vs Marquinhos
RB Leipzig’s midfield department is better than PSG’s when it comes to overall cohesion and quick movements.
Kevin Kampl might not have been a regular starter this season but his performance against Atletico makes him one to watch.
The Slovenian was the conductor in the middle for RB Leipzig, spraying balls to the wingers and opening spaces through quick one-touch passes with Olmo and Konrad Laimer. Kampl’s composure and accurate passing helped Nagelsmann counter Simeone’s high pressing midfielders like Saul Niguez and Hector Herrera.
Marquinhos has done well after being converted into a defensive midfielder from a center-back. Along with Idrissa Gana Gueye, the onus will be on him to break RB Leipzig’s plays in the middle.
The key will be to cover passing lanes and prevent Kampl and co. from rotating possession between the midfield and the wing.
I had doubted RB Leipzig’s chances last time out but will not make the same mistake again. Nagelsmann’s superb management is a major factor that needs to be taken into consideration.
Tuchel too is a great tactician who knows how to get the best out of mavericks like Neymar, Mbappe and di Maria.
These aspects make this semi-final a very hard one to predict. I, however, will go with a hot take and tip RB Leipzig to beat PSG.
Nagelsmann, through his energetic midfield, will be able to reduce the pressure on his defensive line to deal with Neymar and Mbappe. Die Roten Bullen’s advanced midfielders and attackers have the understanding to break PSG’s defense.
Predicted scoreline: RB Leipzig 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain