10 March, 2021

AUTHOR: James Dowen

STAR PREVIEW Wed: Champions League

The Champions League provided an incredible night of thrills and spills yesterday, with Borussia Dortmund knocking out Sevilla in the battle of our ante-post selections thanks to that man once again Erling Haaland (who else?) whilst Porto knocked out Juventus after another thriller went to extra time, with much of the focus surely going to rest on how Sergio Oliveira’s long-range free-kick deep into the second half of extra time went through the legs of Cristiano Ronaldo and then the hands of Wojciech Szczesny.

Tonight’s second legs don’t look anywhere near as tightly balanced with Liverpool aiming to make it to the quarter-finals against RB Leipzig and PSG aiming to avoid a repeat of past comebacks against Barcelona.

Liverpool v RB Leipzig
UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg
20:00 BT Sport 2 / BT Sport Ultimate

(Maximum 10 matches, since 2010)
FEB 2021 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Leipzig 0-2 Liverpool

Liverpool are playing knockout football in the truest sense – they are 1/8 to make it through to the quarter-finals, but if they don’t win the Champions League this year then it’s highly unlikely that they’ll make it into the top four. Defeat against Fulham made it six straight defeats in the league at Anfield, leaving them behind more in form rivals – some of whom have games in hand – as they look to try and save their injury hit season.

The lack of squad depth Klopp has was exposed on Sunday – he made seven changes but (the most between Premier League games during the manager’s entire tenure) Neco Williams and Xherdan Shaqiri struggled massively whilst Diogo Jota was understandably off the pace on his first appearance back.

Roberto Firmino may return to the front three whilst Jota should strip fitter going forward but Liverpool have been lacklustre in attack for all of 2021 and defensively there are still major questions for them to answer. Neco Williams will drop to the bench but nobody has impressed in recent weeks with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson looking very fatigued indeed.

Liverpool won the reserve leg despite such problems, but Leipzig made two very rare errors a fortnight ago as Marcel Sabotzer gifted Mohamed Salah for the opener, and then Dayot Upamecano missed a simple ball to allow Sadio Mane to score the second. Those were out of kilter mistakes from a Leipzig side that reached the semi-finals in the last campaign whilst also having 52 points from 24 games in the Bundesliga (four more than at the same time last season). They’ve won their last six in the Bundesliga and are now just two points behind Bayern Munich.

They responded to the first leg defeat by winning four in a row and in the shape of the in-form pairing of Alexander Sorloth (scored in two of his last three games, assisted in the other) and Christopher Nkunku (has scored in his last two Bundesliga games) they have two forwards who can test a vulnerable Liverpool defence. Leipzig are worth backing to make Liverpool very uncomfortable this evening on neutral territory.

Barcelona are aiming for another amazing cup comeback against PSG – they won 3-0 against Sevilla to make the Copa del Rey final after a 2-0 first leg loss – but neither side makes huge appeal in the second leg with Barcelona’s need for away goals sure to give PSG space to acc on the break.

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