Manuel Veth –
Leipzig vs Benfica – Wednesday, November 27, 20:00GMT/21:00CET – RB Arena, Leipzig, Germany
RB Leipzig have been flying in the Bundesliga. The Red Bulls have scored 24 goals in the last five games. That run included a 6-1 win in the DFB Pokal and an 8-0 win over Mainz in the Bundesliga. They also managed a 2-1 win against Zenit, that result has put Leipzig in the driver’s seat in Group G.
Perhaps the only negative in that run has been the long series of injured defenders. Dayot Upamecano was the latest defender to go down with a nasty injury. The French centre-back was heavily fouled in the dying minutes of Leipzig’s 4-1 win over 1.FC Köln on Saturday.
Leipzig’s other defenders Nordi Mukiele and Ibrahima Konaté, are only training individually at the moment. Stefan Ilsanker, who helped out in defence on Saturday, is not registered for the Champions League. But despite defensive problems, Leipzig are certain that they can advance on Wednesday.
“We want to light a firework,” head coach Julian Nagelsmann said. Leipzig will be through if they avoid defeat against Benfica and will clinch first place if they win, and Lyon do not. Benfica, meanwhile, will be unable to finish in the top two if they do not beat Leipzig.
For Benfica, it will be without a doubt a difficult game on Wednesday. While Leipzig have defensive problems, Benfica will be without Haris Seferović and Rafa Silva. Furthermore, new signing Raul de Tomas has disappointed.
“We are not showing what we expect from ourselves,” general director Rui Costa said this week to kicker. “It will be difficult [against Leipzig] but not impossible.”
Nonetheless, in current form, Leipzig will be the favourites on Tuesday. The Red Bulls have been in phenomenal form and with a win, could switch their focus to the Bundesliga until the winter break.
Leipzig vs Benfica – Players to look out for:
Emil Forsberg #10 – RB Leipzig
Emil Forsberg was fantastic at the weekend. Scoring from the spot-kick as well as a brilliant freekick, the Swede was the match-winner in Leipzig’s win over Köln. But it was not just the goals that made Forsberg stand out. The 28-year-old showed the sort of form he demonstrated during Leipzig’s first Bundesliga season two years ago in recent weeks, mainly because he has finally overcome injury problems.
Pizzi #21 – Benfica
With several attacking players either out or struggling for form, Pizzi will be Benfica’s key player on Tuesday. The attacking midfielder leads Benfica with eight league goals and four assists scored this season. On the weekend, Pizzi was helped guide his side to a 2-1 win over Santa Clara.
Leipzig vs Benfica – Match Stats
- Leipzig have won eight of their 14 home European matches (D2 L4), although only two of the last five (D1 L2).
- After beating Benfica on Matchday 1 Leipzig went down 2-0 at home to Lyon, although they bounced back to defeat Zenit home (2-1) and away (2-0) to make it five wins in their ten UEFA Champions League fixtures.
- Benfica have been defeated in 15 of their last 27 European fixtures.
- Despite victories at PAOK, AEK and Galatasaray last season, Benfica have won only three of their last 15 fixtures outside Portugal (D2 L10).
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Leipzig vs Benfica – 2-0
Leipzig vs Benfica – Lineups
Gulacsi – Halstenberg, Upamecano, Ampadu, Klostermann – Demme, Laimer – Forsberg, Sabitzer – Poulsen, Werner
Head Coach: Julian Nagelsmann
Vlachodimos – Grimaldo, Ferro, Ruben Dias, A. Almeida – Florentino, Gabriel – Cervi, Pizzi – Vinicius, Chiquinho
Head Coach: Bruno Lage
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others, contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently splits his time between Victoria, BC, and Munich, Germany. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.