RB Leipzig duo Christopher Nkunku and Timo Werner (l-r.) have Celtic in their crosshairs. - © Imago
RB Leipzig duo Christopher Nkunku and Timo Werner (l-r.) have Celtic in their crosshairs. - © Imago
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5 reasons RB Leipzig will beat Celtic in the UEFA Champions League

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With Timo Werner and Christopher Nkunku getting into scoring gear and new coach Marco Rose sharpening up their talented defence, RB Leipzig have a fantastic chance of landing their first UEFA Champions League win of the season when Celtic visit on Wednesday. bundesliga.com outlines why…

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1) It’s Timo’s time

Werner is well known to British audiences after his Champions League-winning stint at Chelsea. His pace also plagued England’s defence in UEFA Nations League action during the September international break. After hitting a brace against Bochum this past weekend to break the 100-goals barrier for Leipzig, the top-scoring Germany international of the Hansi Flick era is out to add to his 15 Champions League strikes, the last of which fell away to record winners Real Madrid in the 2021/22 quarter-finals.

It's not just Werner who the Scottish side have to stress about, though. Nkunku has kept his insatiable appetite for goals going this season, also hitting two against Bochum to take his tally to six in eight Bundesliga matches. The 2021/22 Bundesliga Player of the Season has a fondness for European nights, firing seven in six Champions League matches last season, including a hat-trick at Manchester City.

Watch: Timo Werner turned on the style against Bochum

Andre Silva is eager to find the net again, too, having scored for Leipzig only in the DFB Cup so far this season. Rose started all three of his strike stars in the win against Bochum, and the statistics support his decision. Leipzig are in the top three clubs in the Bundesliga for shots, possession and crosses from open play this term. That shows their build-up play has been solid despite a hot-and-cold start to the campaign, and once the goals start to flow, opponents better beware. Bochum were bruised on Saturday, and now Celtic are next in line to feel Leipzig’s attacking fury.

2) Gvardiol grit

Leipzig’s defensive performances have not always matched the talent at their disposal this season, with six goals conceded in their opening Champions League encounters to Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Madrid. Rose will have spent much of the international break pondering how to bolster the backline, and things seem to be heading in the right direction fast. Following a 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in his first home match in charge, the win against Bochum makes it two home clean sheets out of two in the Bundesliga for the new boss.

The personnel available to Rose inspires confidence they can also shut out a Celtic side that have scored just once across their first two Champions League ties. Josko Gvardiol played his way to the 2022 Golden Boy shortlist, thanks to his stature, solidity and comfort on the ball. The hot defensive talent is eager to repay Leipzig’s faith in him after recently extending his contract. Willi Orban, Mohamed Simakan and Marcel Halstenberg started alongside the Croatia international against Bochum, while Paris Saint-Germain loanee Abdou Diallo and Germany international full-backs David Raum and Benjamin Henrichs are further strings to Rose's defensive bow.

Josko Gvardiol's (c.) first full season at Leipzig ended in DFB Cup success. - IMAGO / Sportfoto Rudel

3) Marco’s midfield memories

Leipzig’s midfield packs all kinds of magic, once you know how to conjure that out of the players. Rose has a distinct advantage in that regard. No less than three of his midfield men worked under him a few years ago at Red Bull Salzburg – slick midfield operator Xaver Schlager, the battle-hardy Amadou Haidara and the technically outstanding Dominik Szoboszlai. Pressing machine Konrad Laimer joined Leipzig from Salzburg two weeks after Rose took the job at the Austrian club in 2017.

It's 21-year-old Szoboszlai who seems most likely to seize the limelight. The Hungarian has credited Rose for giving him the proverbial rocket he needed to first flourish in Salzburg. The youngster has shown he thrives on big occasions – scoring two great goals on his full Bundesliga debut last season, netting in Rose’s first game against Dortmund and scoring crucial goals for his national team. His set-piece mastery could be just what is needed to give Leipzig the edge, should the crunch Champions League tie against Celtic become a nervy affair.

4) Rose’s European thorns

Rose fell at the group stage as Dortmund coach last season, but there's no doubting his fine European pedigree. In fact, Rose gained the Red Bull Salzburg job after leading the club’s U19 side to victory in the 2017 UEFA Youth League – beating young counterparts from a great swathe of the European elite along the way in Manchester City, PSG, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Benfica.

He later steered Salzburg to the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League in his first season in charge in 2017/18. The German picked up six wins out of six in the group stage of the same competition the following season, including victories home and away to Celtic. Rose also led Borussia Mönchengladbach to the last 16 of the Champions League in his first season coaching in the competition in 2020/21.

Marco is your man when it comes to a European mission – such as getting Leipzig’s Champions League journey back on track with three points on Wednesday.

Leipzig-born Marco Rose has won two of four matches since replacing Domenico Tedesco as head coach. - IMAGO/Michael Taeger/IMAGO/Jan Huebner

5) Been there, done that

Losing your first home match in the Champions League is never pleasant. Leipzig don’t need to reflect too long and hard on their 1-4 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk last month, though. They have a new coach, and they also know just what it takes to turn a European campaign around from a similar position.

Let’s cast our minds back to the autumn of 2019. Leipzig were beaten 0-2 by Lyon in their first group stage game in Germany, but narrowly won their next one 2-1 against Zenit Saint Petersburg. They eventually made it out of their group and accounted for Tottenham Hotspur and Atleti on a dizzying run that took them all the way to the semi-finals.

That brings more than just a load of great memories. That experience can be Leipzig’s trump card. Some 12 players from their 2019/2020 Champions League squad are at the club this season. With Celtic making their first group stage appearance in five years, Leipzig have the quality and experience to secure a much-needed win.