Tottenham vs RB Leipzig: Champions League preview and prediction
Last year’s Champions League runners-up Tottenham are set to host German upstarts RB Leipzig in the Round of 16 tonight.
The East German club is making its first appearance in the knockout stages of Europe’s premier club competition. Tottenham reached their first Champions League final last season and would be looking to improve on that historic achievement.
This is the first time that both clubs will be facing each other in their history.
Tottenham come into this matchup on the back of a last-gasp 3-2 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park. Heung-Min Son’s double helped Spurs overcome the Villans but the South Korean forward broke his arm in the game and is likely to miss out on the remainder of the season.
RB Leipzig are currently involved in a four-way contest for the Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Die Roten Bullen were on the money last weekend, posting a comfortable 3-0 win over Werder Bremen.
Jose Mourinho’s Spurs are unbeaten in their last five games (across all competitions) with four of them being wins.
Julian Nagelsmann’s men, on the other hand, have stuttered in their last five games (across all competitions). RB Leipzig have won one, drawn two and lost two in their last five matches.
Both Mourinho and Nagelsmann will be managing sides ravaged by injuries to multiple key players.
Son is the most high-profile absence for Spurs, in addition to Harry Kane, who as per reports, will only be back in April. With the South Korean also out, most probably, for the remainder of the season, Spurs will find it hard to score goals. This, however, will also mean more opportunities for new signing Steven Bergwijn.
Moussa Sissoko, Juan Foyth and Erik Lamela will also be on the sidelines for this game.
In contrast to Spurs’ limitations in attack, Leipzig will have to do with a makeshift defense. Captain Willi Orban and Ibrahima Konate are out and Dayot Upamecano is suspended for this match.
Nagelsmann will also be altering his midfield as Tyler Adams and Kevin Kampl will not be available for tonight’s game.
Lucas Moura vs Lukas Klostermann
In Kane and Son’s absence, Lucas Moura will be tasked with leading Spurs’ attacking line.
The Brazilian has not been at his best this season with opportunities limited in the earlier part of the season. Still, he was able to score and assist in the Champions League group stage.
Expect Moura to drift in from the right and cause problems for RB Leipzig’s makeshift back-line which will be marshalled by Lukas Klostermann.
The 23-year old German is having a solid season but tonight’s game will be a big test, considering he’ll not be alongside Upamecano and Orban. He is a good reader of the game but concentration lapses are his kryptonite and the RB Leipzig faithful will be hoping to not see the latter part of his game tonight.
Dele Alli vs Konrad Laimer
After a rocky start to the season, Alli has blossomed under Mourinho.
With Tottenham’s limitations up front, the Englishman is likely to play as a withdrawn forward functioning behind Bergwijn and Moura.
Making things tough for Alli on the opposite end will be the tough tackling Konraid Laimer. The Austrian has earned plaudits for his aggression and industry. In addition to his defensive abilities, Laimer serves as the pivot for RB Leipzig when the team embarks on its trademark counter-attacks.
Alli will have a tough time tonight as Laimer is unlikely to provide him a lot of space to work with. Furthermore, Alli will also have to keep in mind to track back in case Laimer and co. try to hit Tottenham on the counter.
Davinson Sanchez vs Timo Werner
Even if Kane and Son were playing in this game, RB Leipzig would still have been lining up with a more potent attacker in the form of Timo Werner.
The German forward is enjoying a highly productive season, having scored 25 goals in all competitions. His haul of 20 goals in 22 Bundesliga games is second only to Robert Lewandowski. Werner also found the net thrice in six Champions League group stage appearances.
The German’s breakneck speed and ice-cool finishing will be a cause of worry for a defense led by Davinson Sanchez. The Colombian and the entire Spurs defensive unit has been under-par this season with Tottenham having the lowest number of clean sheets in the Premier League this season. A stat that is all the more incredible considering Spurs are managed by Mourinho.
Spurs’ failings at the back and Sanchez’s visible weaknesses in keeping up with his man give RB Leipzig a major edge.
Spurs have a fine record at home in the Champions League. The Lilywhites have been victorious in 10 of their last 14 Champions League games in London. They have also been victorious in four of their last six Champions League outings against German opposition – four wins over Borussia Dortmund and two losses against Bayern Munich.
RB Leipzig’s away form has been patchy in recent outings with only one win in the last six games on the road. Furthermore, the players’ inexperience in the knockout stages of the Champions League will also play a role.
Spurs’ injury crisis means that goals will be hard to come by but against a makeshift Leipzig defense, Mourinho’s men should find the net. The visitors will also be able to get the all-important away goal considering how potent they are while counter-attacking.
Predicted scoreline: Tottenham 1-1 RB Leipzig