Will Dani Olmo and Xavi (l-r.) be celebrating again in the UEFA Champions League, when Real Madrid come to town? - © IMAGO/motivio
Will Dani Olmo and Xavi (l-r.) be celebrating again in the UEFA Champions League, when Real Madrid come to town? - © IMAGO/motivio

5 reasons RB Leipzig will beat Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last 16


With playmaking genius Xavi always good for a special moment and a front two in formidable form in Benjamin Šeško and Loïs Openda, a supremely talented RB Leipzig side has exactly what it takes to beat Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last 16. bundesliga.com outlines how the 2019/20 semi-finalists create another sensation...

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1) Xavi's the laddie  

Xavi has well and truly lit up Leipzig's attacking play since his arrival on loan from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.

The Dutch wizard has a very healthy habit of conjuring up moments of brilliance in the biggest games too - with two goals and two assists in the Champions League group stage, while a breathtaking turn and strike against Bayer Leverkusen earned him the Bundesliga Goal of the Month Award for January

His irrepressible creative spark is just the kind of thing Leipzig might need in an encounter they won't be expected to dominate. Should the Madrid defence manage to get a handle on Xavi, they will also have a fit-again Dani Olmo - who looked at his ingenious best in a recent 2-0 win over Union Berlin - to contend with.

Watch: Xavi scored the Bundesliga's Goal of the Month in January

2) A frightening front two

There are signs afoot that Leipzig's attack is on its way to developing into a very slick unit indeed. With 46 goals in 21 Bundesliga matches, Die Roten Bullen average over two goals per game - and they have not let up at all on that pace in the Champions League, firing 13 goals in six group stage matches, which is more than any other German side. 

A new development in 2024 has been Šeško cementing his place in a front two alongside Openda. The big and bustling Slovenian has scored in each of his previous three Bundesliga outings, while only two men in the league boast more than Openda's 15 goals so far.

Watch: Šeško and Openda both score as Leipzig beat Union Berlin 2-0

Šeško's stature makes him a particular threat from set-pieces - his header from a free-kick against Union was the 14th goal Leipzig have scored in the Bundesliga from dead-balls, more than any other side. That is a very handy threat to have in a potentially tight European knockout tie.

Šeško and Openda could just be the kind of strike partnership the whole of football ends up talking about at some stage, and it may be the Madrid defence who are among the first to reflect on their potent combined package. 

3) Young guns at the ready

Leipzig's tie against Leverkusen on Matchday 18 - which featured Xavi's aforementioned wonder-goal - saw Marco Rose field the youngest starting XI recorded in the Bundesliga this season at an average age of 24.6. Olmo was very much the grand old man of Leipzig's attack that day, aged 25.

Real Madrid's players in LaLiga this season come in at a distinctly more senior average age of 27.4, while their starting XI for their last Champions League match, at Union Berlin, had an even less sprightly average of 29.1 years. 

Watch: RB Leipzig's attacking strengths

One of football's perennial arguments is the value of youthful vigour versus experienced heads. While you never quite know which will prevail when they face off, we expect the explosive elements of the young Leipzig ensemble to give them the upper hand at home.

4) History on their side

While Leipzig's meteoric rise since their founding in 2009 makes them very much the young upstarts against Real Madrid, there are plenty of achievements in their strong Champions League record since first entering the competition in 2017 that suggest they have what it takes to beat the Spanish giants.

Exhibit A would have to be the last time the two sides met in October 2022. Leipzig raced into a two-goal lead in the opening 18 minutes and ran out as 3-2 winners. Six of the Leipzig starting XI that evening are still at the club.

Only one team have beaten Real Madrid in the Champions League since Leipzig's 3-2 victory in October 2022. - Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Leipzig's finest hour in the Champions League also happened to come against a side from Madrid - Real's local rivals Atlético, who the Bundesliga outfit dismissed 2-1 at the quarter-final stage of the 2019/20 competition. Still on the Leipzig books, Olmo, Yussuf Poulsen, Kevin Kampl and Péter Gulácsi all started that encounter.

5) Champions League specialists

Leipzig may not be among the biggest favourites for the competition, with that run in 2020 being the only time yet they have advanced beyond the last 16. Dig a little deeper, though, and their recent Champions League record shows itself to be really quite impressive.

Leipzig's Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain in August 2020 marks the furthest they have reached so far in the competition. - DAVID RAMOS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

If you discount ties against current holders Manchester City - who Leipzig have faced four times in the past year - then they have won a whopping eight consecutive matches in the competition. That run stretches back to the 3-2 victory over Madrid in 2022. 

Leipzig have scored at least two goals in all eight of those matches too, adding further cause for optimism that another sensation is on the cards when they renew rivalries with the record European champions.