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Champions League preview: Can Liverpool return to form against RB Leipzig?

Liverpool and RB Leipzig are set to face off in the Champions League round of 16 in what will be the very first meeting between the two sides.

A year ago, Liverpool would've been strong favourites to win the tie, but considering their current form, victory for the Reds is not certain in the slightest.

Liverpool currently sit sixth on the Premier League table, having lost four of their last six league games.

Their most recent defeat came at the hands of Leicester City who put three goals past Jurgen Klopp's men in the latter stages of the tie to secure a 3-1 win, with Mohamed Salah bagging the lone goal for Liverpool.

The loss to Leicester put a much wider dent in Liverpool's Premier title hopes, as they currently sit 13 points away from 1st-placed Manchester City, who have shown no signs of slowing down in the past two months.

At this point of the season, the Champions League represents Liverpool's best opportunity to secure major silverware, but in order to have a real shot at lifting the coveted title, they'll need to topple Leipzig in the Round of 16.

Unlike Liverpool, Leipzig currently boasts great domestic form, having won five of their last six Bundesliga games, with their only loss coming in a tightly contested 3-2 defeat against Mainz.

Leipzig currently sit 2nd in the Bundesliga, four points behind Bayern Munich who currently occupy 1st place.

Liverpool Team News

Liverpool will be forced to field a weakened squad against Leipzig on Tuesday due to a flurry of injury problems.

The Reds suffered another injury blow in their 3-1 defeat against Leicester, as James Milner had to be taken off the field in the 17th minute due to a hamstring injury.

He is expected to miss the game against Leipzig along with Divock Origi, Diogo Jota, Caoimihin Kelleher and Ben Davies.

Fabinho and former Leipzig man Naby Keita are doubts for the tie, however, there's a slight chance either one of them, or possibly both, may be available for the tie.

Defensive trio Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez will remain on the sidelines until the summer due to injuries.

Leipzig Team News

Emil Forsberg, Benjamin Henrich and Konrad Laimer are all poised to miss the game against Liverpool due to knee injuries.

New signing Dominic Szoboszlai will also miss the game due to a groin injury.

Justin Kluivert appears to have recovered from an ankle injury having made an appearance on the bench for Leipzig against Augbsburg, so he may feature for Leipzig against the Reds.

Possible line-ups

RB Leipzig: Gulacsi - Mukiele, Upamecano, Orban - Adams, Sabitzer (c), Kampl, Angelino - Olmo, Nkunku - Poulsen

Liverpool: Alisson - Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Henderson (c), Robertson - Thiago, Wijnaldum, Jones -Salah, Firmino, Mane

Head to Head

The two clubs have never met in a European competition, but Jurgen Klopp has faced his countryman Julian Nagelsmann twice in the past, during the latter's stint at Hoffenheim.

Klopp led Liverpool to a 6-3 aggregate win over Nagelsmann's Hoffenheim in 2017's Champions League playoffs.

The Reds won both legs to secure the aggregate win, and Klopp will be looking to replicate that result as he goes up against Nagelsmann once again.

Things may not go according to plan for Klopp, though, considering the quality Nagelsmann has at his disposal, as well as his improved tactical acumen which has brought Leipzig close to usurping Bayern Munich's throne.

Nagelsmann currently sets his team up with a 3-1-4-2 formation, which is characterised by an aggressive gegenpressing style that looks to constantly apply pressure on his opponents.

Klopp on the other hand utilises the traditional 4-3-3, with a similar pressing style as Nagelsmann - in fact, their styles are so similar that "the battle of the gegenpress" would be a fitting name for the two-legged tie.

Coming up against Leipzig's set-up could be difficult for Liverpool considering their current defensive woes.

Nagelsmann is likely to attempt to overload Liverpool's weak defence with Christopher Nkunu and Youseef Poulsen up front and Tyler Adams along with Marcel Sabitzer on the flanks to create a constant stream of 4 v 4 situations in the attacking third.

This could force Liverpool into soaking up pressure for a large chunk of the game, and potentially force them into making costly defensive mistakes.

And with James Milner on the sidelines, Liverpool may struggle to win the midfield battle, ultimately creating a situation where Leipzig dominates possession.

Klopp will be hoping for moments of brilliance from Salah and Mane in order to give the team something to hold on to in case Leipzig take proper advantage of Liverpool's weakened squad and dominate the midfield.

Phillip Ekuwem
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Phillip Ekuwem

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