Will Dani Olmo and Xavi (l-r.) be celebrating again in the UEFA Champions League when they visit the home of Real Madrid? - © IMAGO/motivio
Will Dani Olmo and Xavi (l-r.) be celebrating again in the UEFA Champions League when they visit the home of Real Madrid? - © IMAGO/motivio

5 reasons RB Leipzig will STILL 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 what it takes to stun Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last 16. bundesliga.com outlines how the 2019/20 semi-finalists can 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

We are not going to lie - it would take some out-of-this-world heroics to land an away win at the Bernabeu and reverse the 0-1 first-leg defeat. When it comes to magic moments, Xavi is your man though, and anyone who followed his fortunes in the Bundesliga would have no doubt in his ability to shine on the toughest possible stage. 

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 54 goals in 24 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 Slovenian has seven strikes already in his debut Bundesliga campaign, while only two men in the league boast more than Openda's 17 goals so far.

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

Šeško has been in particularly sparkling form of late with four goals and an assist in his past five Bundesliga starts - including a strike in Munich as Leipzig were narrowly beaten by Bayern. He also had a goal disallowed in the unfortunate first-leg defeat.

While the Slovenian's stature makes him a particular threat from set-pieces, he boasts bursts of pace reminiscent of another big young striker, Erling Haaland. Together with Openda's raw speed - which helped him to bag a brace at Manchester City in the group stage in November - the Leipzig front pair make for a real menace on the break. 

That makes them the ideal weapon for a daunting away tip like Real Madrid. Who is to say the talented pair won't take their strong recent form up to another level with an away attacking masterclass at the Spanish giants? 

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. Dani Olmo was very much the grand old man of Leipzig's attack that day, aged 25.

Real Madrid's players in La Liga this season come in at a distinctly more senior average age of 27.4. 

Watch: RB Leipzig's attacking strengths

One of football's perennial arguments is the value of youthful vigour versus experienced heads. Truth be told, you never quite know how that battle will play out, but Leipzig's brave performance in the first leg, which saw them fire nine shots on goal to Real's three, made a decent claim for the merits of carefree young footballers.

Leipzig now have nothing to lose in Madrid, with all the expectation being that they will exit the competition. An even greater show of fearlessness might very well catch Real cold.  

4) They've done it before

Let's put the first-leg defeat in February to one side and cast our minds back to the previous meeting of the sides 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

The kind of confidence that comes from previously beating an opponent was clearly on display in the first leg. That Leipzig's attacking endeavours did not lead to a breakthrough should not deter them at all - they have no alternative, after all, than to go out with a positive mindset and seek to take another win over Real. 

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 having started that encounter are Olmo, Yussuf Poulsen, Kevin Kampl and Péter Gulácsi.

5) Champions League away 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 impressive - especially on the road.

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 visited twice in the past year - then they have a strong record of four away wins in a row. They scored 11 goals in those four matches too.

That is a trend that can be traced back to Leipzig's first appearance in the competition in 2017. Since then they have beaten Monaco, Benfica and Tottenham on the road, as well as taking the win against Atletico Madrid at a neutral venue. 

There is clearly something in Leipzig's powerful pressing-based football that makes them capable of disrupting big European sides on their own patch, and we believe they can defy expectations to make the mighty Real Madrid their next victims!