The Champions League returns this week, with one of the eye-catching ties being played in North London. Tottenham welcome the up and coming RB Leipzig to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It is a unique occasion where the hosts are seen as the experienced campaigners in the competition, with the visitors never reaching the knockout stages before this season. Meanwhile, Spurs managed to get to the final of the competition last year. There will also be a clash of styles, as the pragmatic Jose Mourinho comes up against a fresh and forward-thinking Julian Nagelsmann. The Premier League side will be hoping their experience on the pitch and in the dugout will give them an advantage.
Despite his recent decline, Mourinho remains one of the most successful coaches in this competition, as has won it with two different clubs. It can be argued that his successes have come when he hasn’t been fancied to go far into the tournament, with Porto and Inter Milan both beating the odds to triumph. When managing better teams, such as Real Madrid and Chelsea, he hasn’t been able to lift the prestigious trophy. This current Spurs team isn’t tipped to go far even though they got to the final less than 12 months ago. The lack of pressure could bring out the best in their Portuguese manager. In terms of this tie, the first leg will be key. Tottenham need to keep things tight, get a lead and limit the free-scoring Leipzig attack.
There is a lot of controversy regarding the financing of RB Leipzig in Germany, as they have sailed through the league system. However, they are now competing in the Bundesliga and they are a dangerous team in the Champions League. At the time of writing, they are a single point behind perennial champions Bayern Munich. Their attacking qualities under Nagelsmann have taken the headlines, but they managed to keep a clean sheet against the aforementioned Bayern a couple of weeks ago at the Allianz Arena. They will arrive in North London with a positive approach and will be confident that they can score at least one away goal.
Tottenham scored 18 goals across 6 Champions League group matches, averaging three goals per game.
RB Leipzig arrive in London after back to back clean sheets and that will give them confidence at the back in Wednesday night.
The South Korean had an excellent record in the knockout stages of the competition last season, scoring a number of key goals as Spurs qualified for the final. He comes alive in ties, as he is capable of scoring at any time, due to his individual brilliance. This is especially useful in matches away from home. His brace was a major reason why they managed to knock Manchester City out last season. RB Leipzig come into this match with defensive issues, with key players missing through injury and suspension. Tottenham need to take advantage of that and earn a first leg lead. Son will be the player he is hoping to do the damage. At the weekend, he was a constant threat against Aston Villa managing six shots on target. It was a sign that he is getting back to his best at the right time for Tottenham. Leipzig will be worried about the South Korean international on Wednesday.
Timo Werner is regarded as the biggest star of this RB Leipzig team and he will be relishing the opportunity to prove himself in the knockout stages of the Champions League. He has been heavily linked with Liverpool in recent weeks and this will be a chance to prove what he can do against a Premier League side. In the Bundesliga, he has been incredible, scoring 20 goals at a rate of one every 93.75 minutes. During the group stages, he scored three times and he will be wanting to add to that across the two matches against Tottenham. There are nerves to exploit in the Tottenham back four.. The pace and movement of Werner will cause them real issues.
Erik Lamela and Juan Foyth are both closing in on a return, but neither are expected to start. Harry Kane and Moussa Sissoko remain long term absentees.
Dayot Upamecano is suspended for the visitors, while Willy Orban and Ibrahima Konaté are both injured. This has caused a defensive crisis at the club, with Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu a contender to start. Kevin Kampl is a doubt in midfield.
This is a very tricky draw for Tottenham, albeit it could have been far worse considering they didn’t manage to win their group. RB Leipzig’s lack of experience at this stage of the competition could give an edge to the Premier League side. Jose Mourinho has proven in the past that he comes into his own during the knockout rounds of European competition. At Manchester United, he proved this once again, as he led the team to Europa League success. There is likely to be goals in this one. Spurs’ experience should be enough to get a first leg lead.
Tottenham 2-1 RB Leipzig