Dayot Upamecano is one big reason why Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool should be very worried ahead of their UEFA Champions League second leg with RB Leipzig. - © DFL
Dayot Upamecano is one big reason why Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool should be very worried ahead of their UEFA Champions League second leg with RB Leipzig. - © DFL

5 reasons RB Leipzig STILL beat Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League

With Dayot Upamecano stationed to keep Mohamed Salah quiet, Julian Nagelsmann pulling the strings and goals being scored by anybody, RB Leipzig have nothing to fear against Liverpool in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League last-16 second leg in Budapest, despite a 2-0 defeat in the first leg.

>> Click here for Liverpool vs. Leipzig team news! explains why Leipzig will overturn a 2-0 deficit and reach the quarter-finals...

1) All-conquering Bayern Munich's biggest threat

Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB Cup treble winners in 2019/20, Bayern Munich have won 61 and drawn six of 73 competitive matches under Hansi Flick, scoring 227 goals and conceding 77.

Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are among Bayern's catalogue of victims, while only Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hoffenheim and Holstein Kiel have got the better of the record Bundesliga champions.

Of the handful of teams to have faced Flick's Bayern twice or more in all competitions, one has come away unscathed. You guessed it, Leipzig.

Watch: Julian Nagelsmann looks ahead to RB Leipzig's clash with Liverpool

In February of 2020, Leipzig stopped Flick's side from scoring in an engrossing goalless draw at the Red Bull Arena. It is a feat no European outfit in the 14 games prior or the 59 since has managed to achieve.

When Leipzig travelled to Munich on Bundesliga Matchday 10 of the current campaign, they matched Europe's collective gold standard all the way in a six-goal thriller to stay within two points of the Bundesliga leaders in second place.

Other than Hertha Berlin and Arminia Bielefeld, they are the only team at home or abroad to put at least three goals past the great Manuel Neuer in a single club-level game since Flick took charge on 3 November 2019.

On their day, Leipzig - as PSG and Manchester United found out in Group H - are a match for anyone, and it is no surprise that they are pushing the Bavarians hard for the title in Germany this season.

Flying on all three fronts, Leipzig are bang in contention to land a first piece of major silverware in the months ahead. - DFL

2) Julian Nagelsmann at the helm

Nagelsmann is the brains behind Leipzig's relative success in recent meetings with Bayern.

On each occasion, the Leipzig tactician had a clear strategy to counteract - and counterattack - the red ballet. His team moved from three at the back in possession, to a five without the ball, accompanied by a high-octane, feather-ruffling press.

It produced the better chances in last winter's 0-0 draw, and enabled Leipzig to take 1-0 and 3-2 leads at the Allianz Arena earlier this term.

Watch: Nagelsmann's Leipzig under the tactical microscope

And while Nagelsmann's side suffered their heaviest European defeat at Old Trafford during the group stage (5-0), the 33-year-old didn't become one of Europe's most coveted coaches without a few setbacks on the way.

Having been undone by United's curveball midfield diamond and, in his own words, "superior physicality", Leipzig roared back to beat United 3-2 on Matchday 6 and book their place in the knockout rounds.

Nagelsmann lost a two-legged Champions League play-off 6-3 to Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool whilst in charge of Hoffenheim in August 2017, but don't expect lightning to strike twice. In fact, the way he turned things around against United, having learned the lessons from the defeat in Manchester, provides another good reason why he can do the same now he has seen Liverpool over 90 minutes against his team.

Julian Nagelsmann (l.) is a student of Klopp's (r.) acclaimed 'Gegenpressing' (counter pressing) school of thought. - imago/Sportimage

3) Dayot Upamecano in the way

Upamecano's 'thou-shall-not-pass' mentality is a big part of the reason why.

The France international, who will join Bayern in the summer, has been instrumental once again this season for a Leipzig team that boasts the sternest defence in the Bundesliga (20 goals conceded in 24 matches). A Liverpool shorn of 2019 UEFA Best Player Virgil Van Dijk, on the other hand, have leaked 35 goals from their 27 Premier League outings.

Leipzig's run to the Champions League semi-finals last season showcased Upamecano's abilities. Although Nagelsmann's side were beaten by PSG, Upamecano had broken the lines with vertical passes 113 times in the competition - more than any other player to make it that far.

Watch: Dayot Upamecano, Leipzig's defensive rock

His 91 per cent pass completion through 2019/20 was stratospheric and symptomatic of a man who "played everywhere, forward, midfielder…" before he settled in defence at Valenciennes, his first professional club.

"He loves defending, getting the ball off opponents," France youth coach Jean-Claude Giuntini said of Upamecano. He generally does get the ball too, winning 64 per cent of his challenges, including an imposing 70 per cent in the air.

4) Surging Sorloth and Leipzig's even spread

Looking to exploit the gaps in Liverpool's patchwork defence, which have been amplified by a string of mistakes from goalkeeper Alisson Becker, are a host of Leipzig players who have been sharing the goal-scoring burden in this, their first season since Timo Werner moved to Chelsea.

The Germany international contributed to 47 goals for Leipzig in 2019/20, but Nagelsmann has found a way to plug the gap, with 15 different names on the scoresheet so far this term. Left-wing-back Angelino leads the way with seven, together with Christopher Nkunku after he hit the back of the net at Freiburg at the weekend. They are followed by Emil Forsberg and Yussuf Poulsen on six, Marcel Sabitzer on five and four players on four, including Dani Olmo and the in-form Alexander Sorloth, who has two goals and three assists in his past three outings.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is how the goals are not just coming from different players, but from different outlets, with the left wing - an area Werner also used to exploit to great effect - supplying over a third of their total spread.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have been rather reliant on Salah, who accounts for 24 of their 73 strikes, which includes three own goals.

Pace is one of Salah's strongest attributes, but Leipzig will not be too concerned about that. Upamecano and Lukas Klostermann are both among the top ten quickest Bundesliga players this season, giving them the legs to keep up with the Egyptian and cut off Liverpool's chief supply line.

5) Liverpool in freefall

Getting to the top is a challenge in itself, but once you've successfully scaled the dizzying heights of Champions League success followed by Premier League glory, keeping ahead of the rest is arguably an even greater challenge.

Liverpool are currently enduring the proverbial hangover season after ending their 30-year wait for domestic glory in England, with last week's defeat to Chelsea their fifth home reverse in a row, setting a new, unwanted club record. Not only have they consequently slipped 22 points behind the current league leaders Manchester City, led by former Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, but they are also four points adrift of the top four.

What better time to meet them for a Leipzig side who, conversely, are biting at the heels of Bayern, boast the stingiest defence in the Bundesliga and have a habit of dumping out English opposition...