Andy Brassell on European Football: Leipzig and Man United to take it to the wire

Julian Nagelsmann and Emil Forsberg of RB Leipzig
Julian Nagelsmann has come to rely on Emil Forsberg this season

Tuesday's RB Leipzig v Manchester United clash in the Champions League is tough to call, writes Andy Brassell, while some continental giants also face a date with destiny this week...

"United need a point at Leipzig on Tuesday to qualify for the last 16 and with Julian Nagelsmann’s team – who also often look more comfy on the counter – having to come out and get a result if they are to take the berth in the knockout round instead, it looks nicely set up for United."

Leipzig test awaits for United

With a Champions League eat-or-be-eaten moment arriving against RB Leipzig on Tuesday Manchester United fans might be happy that it's taking place away from Old Trafford. Not only are European nights to be etched upon the memory not really possible in the continuing absence of crowds, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team have become much more capable on the road than home turf.

A fifth Premier League away win out of five at West Ham on Saturday evening may indicate that United's fast-breaking style makes more sense on enemy turf, but any philosophical questions can remain on hold for now. They need a point at Leipzig on Tuesday to qualify for the last 16 and with Julian Nagelsmann's team - who also often look more comfy on the counter - having to come out and get a result if they are to take the berth in the knockout round instead, it looks nicely set up for United.

What is absolutely crucial for Solskjaer is that he gets the blend of his midfield right. It would be a surprise not to see Scott McTominay feature with the need to keep Emil Forsberg and Dani Olmo on a short leash, but the question remains about where the Scotland midfielder gets help from. The bolder view is that - as always - the difficulty that Leipzig might have in containing Bruno Fernandes (even though the Portugal midfielder's consistency is suffering from the schedule at present) might be the key to it all.

Back the draw between RB Leipzig and Manchester United at 3.9

Crunch time for Real Madrid and Inter

After surprising results on Matchday 6 all possibilities are open in the climax of what has been a fascinating Group B. Borussia Mönchengladbach, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk all have matters in their own hands leaving Inter, who would go out even if they beat the Ukrainians should El Real and Gladbach draw, fearing a biscotto, a mutually beneficial stalemate, in the Spanish capital.

Antonio Conte's side would be well advised to concentrate on getting their side of the bargain settled before getting ready to cast aspersions. On Matchday 6 of each of the last two Champions League campaigns, Inter have let the chance to go through slip through their fingers on home turf - against a second-string Barcelona last year, and the season before against PSV, when they could have ended eventual finalists Tottenham's Champions League campaign in the group had they finished off the Dutch champions.


Gladbach have been the best side in the group and would be through already had they not let leads slip in their first two encounters with Inter and Real Madrid. Yet the German team go to Spain without the surroundings of the Bernabéu to negotiate and knowing all the pressure is on Zinedine Zidane and company, plus with attacking variety to call on. The game management of Marco Rose's team has largely been very good too - they just need to close out.

Back Borussia Mönchengladbach to win at Real Madrid at 5.24/1

Ajax and Atalanta go for broke

So near, yet so far. Many teams might rue the chance that Ajax let slip at Anfield last time out, after dominating possession against the English champions and conceding a winner after a barely believable error by their habitually excellent goalkeeper André Onana. Thank goodness this Ajax team rarely gives the impression of dwelling on their mistakes.

Now Erik Ten Hag's team must win to leapfrog last season's quarter-finalists (or the new Ajax, if you must) Atalanta and progress to the last 16. Ajax choked in a similar situation last term, surprisingly losing at home to Valencia on Matchday 6. We suspect that a team clearly distracted by their upcoming task, surprisingly losing 2-1 at home to Twente in the Eredivisie this weekend, will come out all guns blazing with Lassina Traoré coming back into the XI.

So what of Atalanta? Gian Piero Gasperini's side has been as affected by the current punishing schedule as any of Europe's leading lights. Sunday afternoon's game at Udinese would have been an opportunity to get a first Serie A win in four - had it not been called off late on after a deluge. The extra rest could work out well for them and they have the attacking orchestra, led by conductor Papu Gómez, to pick Ajax off on the break.

Back Atalanta to beat Ajax at 2.9215/8

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