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Chistopher Nkunku's superb form is just one of the reasons RB Leipzig should be optimistic against Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League. - © IMAGO / Picture Point LE
Chistopher Nkunku's superb form is just one of the reasons RB Leipzig should be optimistic against Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League. - © IMAGO / Picture Point LE

5 reasons RB Leipzig will beat Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League


Chistopher Nkunku's meteoric rise and stunning current form is just one of the reasons RB Leipzig should be optimistic against Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League following last week's 1-1 first-leg draw.

>> Click here for the Leipzig-Atalanta LIVE blog!

1) Nkunku's on fire, your defence is terrified

Nkunku can't stop scoring, assisting or - like in the Matchday 28 4-1 rout of Borussia Dortmund and the 3-0 defeat of Hoffenheim last weekend - both. With 17 goals and 12 assists, the freshly minted France international is the only Bundesliga player so far this term to reach double figures in both categories. With a further seven strikes and four assists in UEFA and DFB Cup competition, his contribution rises to 45 goals, including 10 league goals since the turn of the year, in 42 appearances in 2021/22. Across Europe's top five leagues per UEFA coefficient, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski has had a direct hand in more goals (50). Unlike Lewandowski - arguably the best of his No.9 of his generation - 'Koonks' is an attacking midfielder. They do share one trait though: they're both nigh-on unstoppable right now.

2) A prolific supporting cast

Nkunku is one of 16 different scorers at Leipzig this season. After Marcel Halstenberg got his first of the campaign against Hoffenheim, seven defenders are among that list for the Bundesliga's fourth-highest scorers (64 goals), who have also found the net in all nine of their European matches (21 goals at an average of over two per game), as well as 13 times across four DFB Cup assignments. With 15 goals of his own, Portuguese striker Andre Silva is their next-best after Nkunku, followed by the club's record marksman in UEFA competition, the nine-goal Emil Forsberg. If one doesn't fire, the other usually does. The only surprise about the first leg was that it wasn't one of the Leipzig players, but Atalanta defender Davide Zappacosta who earned the hosts a draw thanks to his own-goal.

Watch: Nkunku stars again as Hoffenheim are beaten

3) A resolute defence

Leipzig know a thing or two about keeping goals out, too. The Bundesliga's meanest defence last season, they're second only to Bayern in the stingy department 29 matches into the current campaign, with 31 goals against. Domenico Tedesco's side have reached the DFB Cup semi-finals without conceding, and restricted Real Sociedad to just the one goal in their Europa League last-16 play-off second leg. They've now outscored the opposition in 13 of the German-Italian tactician's 20 fixtures at the helm, while seven competitive shut-outs in that time is an outright best-mark among teams that call the Bundesliga home.

A well-oiled machine from front to back, Leipzig are the Bundesliga's form team in 2022. - Roger Petzsche via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Picture Point LE

4) Winning mentality

Tedesco's heady mix has Leipzig back on course, their worst-ever start to a Bundesliga season now a distant memory. Fourth in the Bundesliga and in the running for top honours in the Europa League and DFB Cup, the 2020/21 Bundesliga runners-up have recorded 12 competitive wins in 2022, drawing four and only losing by the odd goal in five to record champions Bayern. They're currently unbeaten in 12 matches, and will be quietly confident they have what it takes to topple Serie A's eighth-placed outfit.

Watch: Domenico Tedesco's RB Leipzig under the tactical microscope

5) The Italian Job

You can bet your bottom dollar that the German coaching school's top student will have done his homework and learned the lessons of the first leg in which both teams hit the woodwork twice. In fact, he was off on a field trip to Bergamo to watch the Nerazzurri earlier this season even before getting the Leipzig job. That's what you call getting ahead of the class. Throw in Tedesco's command of Italian, as well as German, English, French and Spanish, and it's hard to see much getting past the Leipzig chief. Atalanta counterpart Gian Piero Gasperini might be beginning to wish his team were drilled in Swahili, or better still, had drawn another opponent...