RB Leipzig v Liverpool: Bedlam in Budapest

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Klopp's Liverpool are losing games and leaking goals

Leipzig and Liverpool will do battle on neutral ground in the first leg of their Champions League tie, and our Bundesliga expert Kevin Hatchard expects an entertaining encounter.

"Don't be distracted by Leipzig's defensive record in the Bundesliga. When it comes to the Champions League, Julian Nagelsmann goes for it."

Back Over 3.0 Goals in the Goal Lines market at 2.11

RB Leipzig v Liverpool
Tuesday 16 February, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Leipzig keen to underline progress

The confirmation of Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano's summer transfer to Bayern Munich was a stark reminder about the natural order of things in German football. While Leipzig have made massive strides since their formation in 2009, and tangible progress in nearly two seasons under Julian Nagelsmann, they are still nowhere near Bayern's level. They are however currently the best of the rest in the Bundesliga.

Leipzig had to qualify the hard way for the last 16, winning a must-win final group game at home to Manchester United.

It was a performance full of purpose and power against a team that had humiliated them in the reverse fixture. The Red Bulls have now qualified for the knockout phase of European football's top competition in back-to-back seasons, and last term they knocked out Spurs and Atletico Madrid on their way to the semi-finals.

Leipzig are a hard side to beat. They have lost just three times in the league all season, and they have the best defensive record in the Bundesliga. All the plaudits tend to be hoovered up by Upamecano, but Willi Orban's return to fitness has been hugely important, and there is depth, with Nordi Mukiele, Marcel Halstenberg and Ibrahima Konate all capable of excelling in the back line. Behind them, former Liverpool keeper Peter Gulacsi is one of the most improved keepers in Germany, so much so that Borussia Dortmund are said to be casting avaricious glances his way.

Further forward, Angelino has been a revelation at left wing-back, attacking midfielder Dani Olmo's intelligence, technique and movement produce a potent mix, and Marcel Sabitzer has developed into a tough all-round midfielder and an outstanding leader. The weakness is at centre-forward: Yussuf Poulsen is hard-working but not prolific, and Leipzig might be studying the receipt for big-money acquisition Alexander Sorloth.

Upamecano will return after he was rested for Friday's win over Augsburg. Swedish playmaker Emil Forsberg is short of full fitness, while injury has delayed the debut of new signing Dominik Szoboszlai.

Leicester debacle shows Reds' lack of confidence

Liverpool dominated large swathes of their 3-1 defeat at Leicester City on Saturday, but their defensive fragility cost them as they leaked three goals in quick succession. A free-kick from James Maddison went through a forest of legs to find the bottom corner, out-of-form keeper Alisson had a horrible mix-up with new signing Ozan Kabak for Jamie Vardy's winner, and the champions gave Harvey Barnes far too much space to slot in number three.

Liverpool's title defence is in ruins, and the Champions League offers their only route to glory. Unless they can find a way to fix their form, they might not be in the tournament next season. The main problem has been a crippling injury list - the main focus in always on Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk's absences in defence, but the Merseyside giants also keenly miss Naby Keita and Diogo Jota.

There is some hope in attack. Mo Salah placed in his 17th league goal of the season on Saturday, teed up by a dizzying piece of skill from the improving Robert Firmino. Klopp will be able to field Salah, Mane and Firmino on Tuesday night. Elsewhere, Fabinho is a doubt after missing Saturday's collapse with injury.

Klopp's men are too short to take the win

This battle of German coaching geniuses will take place in the Hungarian capital Budapest, as Liverpool are not allowed to travel to Germany because of the current travel restrictions. It remains Leipzig's designated home leg, and UEFA has opted against scrapping the away goals rule. At this stage, I'd be surprised to see the second leg played at Anfield, so it may well be that both games are at neutral venues.

Liverpool are a tough sell at 2.427/5 to win in their current form. They have lost five of their last seven competitive games, Alisson is having a mini-crisis, and the decision to move Fabinho and Jordan Henderson into defence has weakened the midfield.

However, I'm a little distracted by their outstanding displays at Tottenham and West Ham recently, and they were the better side for over an hour at Leicester. Leipzig have done their best work in this season's UCL on home soil - they lost at Old Trafford and the Parc des Princes - and I can't quite get behind either side in this market.

Goals on the cards as Nagelsmann opens up

Nagelsmann has never been a negative coach, and his instinct is always to attack, especially in the Champions League. Four of Leipzig's six group games featured at least three goals, and three of them featured five goals or more. In last season's UCL, seven of Leipzig's ten outings saw an Over 2.5 Goals bet land.

Nagelsmann adopted a similar approach in this competition as Hoffenheim boss. All six of his group-stage games with TSG featured at least three goals, and an Over 3.5 Goals bet landed four times.

Despite their malaise, Liverpool are still creating chances in attack, and they should do again here. I'll go for Over 3.0 Goals on the Goal Lines market at 2.11. If the game has three goals, our stake is returned. If it has four or more, we get an odds-against winner.

Salah can strike

Mo Salah has been Liverpool's most outstanding performer amidst the chaos this term, and he looks a good bet to score at 2.226/5. Angelino is a superb wing-back in attack, but he leaves a lot of space behind him, and I expect Salah to exploit that on the Liverpool right. The Egyptian has scored in four of his last six games, and he'll get opportunities here.

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