After securing qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League, the Reds, associated with heavy metal football, will take on a modern phenomenon rocking the football world.
For the first time in their history, Liverpool will face RB Leipzig. The pair will lock horns at the Red Bull Arena for the first leg on February 16, before returning to Anfield on March 10.
The draw continues the trend of Liverpool drawing sides in the competition they are yet to play competitively. In Group D, the Reds were pitted against two completely new opponents in Atalanta and Midtjylland, while they had only met Ajax for one two-legged tie more than 50 years ago.
Despite Liverpool and Leipzig never having met before on the pitch, both managers have faced off previously in the Champions League.
After finishing fourth in the 2016/17 season, Liverpool were drawn against Hoffenheim in a two-legged tie for the main competition. Jürgen Klopp came up against an up-and-coming coach in the shape of Julian Nagelsmann.
Just 29 years old at the time, Nagelsmann had burst on to the managerial scene at the start of the 2016/17 season having come through the youth academy system at Hoffenheim, coaching from the under 17s all the way to the first team.
However, the Reds proved too strong for the German side, winning 2-1 at the Rhein-Neckar Arena before producing a stunning 4-2 display at Anfield to secure their place in the competition.
Since then, both Klopp and Nagelsmann have enjoyed success in the competition, with the Reds winning the competition in 2019 whilst Leipzig reached the semi-finals during last season’s campaign.Embed from Getty Images
Much like Nagelsmann’s meteoric rise to the top of the managerial pyramid, RB Leipzig’s rise to the top of European football has been similarly sharp.
After only being founded in 2009, Die Roten Bullen have risen from the depths of German football to the Bundesliga in just seven years, attracting many fans but also making a lot of enemies along the way.
The game itself makes for interesting viewing. RB Leipzig came out of a tough group that involved Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, proving they have what it takes when it comes to playing some of Europe’s elite.
They play an expansive style of football, attacking vertically through quick forward passes and pressing aggressively when out of possession. What is interesting is that this season, under Nagelsmann, we have seen RB Leipzig display more tactical versatility with the coach switching between systems with three or four at the back, depending on the strengths of the opposition.
The likes of Angeliño and Amadou Haidara have benefitted from the system with three defenders, given the license to join attacks when needed. This has also given Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate and Nordi Mukiele the limelight they deserve, and the Reds have reportedly been interested amid their defensive crisis.Embed from Getty Images
With Leipzig’s full-backs likely to attack, Liverpool could find it difficult to contain them with both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané more renowned for their attacking qualities, rather than their defensive ones.
One positive for Liverpool is that the injuries that have been sustained in the early parts of the season will soon be back and out on the pitch.
Although the absences of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will still be sorely missed, the likes of Thiago, Diogo Jota and James Milner will provide Klopp with more midfield options to try to contain Leipzig’s robust and energetic midfield.
Whilst the tie looks a tantalising one, Liverpool will be wary of the threat Leipzig possess and will be cautious when they head to Germany in February. The Reds are more than capable of getting a result against a tough opposition, but Nagelsmann will be looking to get revenge over Klopp from that Hoffenheim loss three years ago.
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