RB Leipzig are riding a UEFA Champions League wave and are now spearheaded by European expert Andre Silva, have inside knowledge on Pep Guardiola and Manchester City through Dani Olmo and Angelino, and only recently beat their local rivals Manchester United.
bundesliga.com has five reasons why Leipzig will beat Man City in Champions League Group A…
1) The Silva bullet
It might sound strange for a club that finished second to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and were runners-up to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Cup, but scoring goals was actually a bit of an Achilles heel for Leipzig last season. Their top scorer in all competitions was Yussuf Poulsen with only 11, while in the Champions League, Angelino (three) was the only player to get more than one.
Die Roten Bullen have rectified that by bringing in Silva. The Portugal international scored more Bundesliga goals than Erling Haaland in 2020/21 and was second only to the almost freakish Robert Lewandowski. His 28 for Eintracht Frankfurt was a new club record and saw him voted into the Bundesliga Team of the Season and also claim the January Player of the Month award.
He might only be 25 but Silva already boasts a wealth of experience across Europe, playing (and scoring) in Portugal, Italy, Spain and now Germany.
Watch: The best of Silva in the Bundesliga
Unsurprising, then, that he particularly loves continental competitions. He was named in the Champions League breakthrough team of 2016 alongside now household names like Joshua Kimmich, Raphael Guerreiro, Christian Pulisic, Ousmane Dembele, Renato Sanches, Samuel Umtiti, Victor Lindelof and more.
It came on the back of five goals in 10 games for Porto, including a brace against Leicester City - the champions of England at the time - as they reached the last 16. A move to AC Milan followed, and another excellent haul of eight goals in 14 UEFA Europa League games.
2) Olmo the disciple
Leipzig boss Jesse Marsch will be able to go to Angelino for extra insight on City’s players and approach given that the left-back had been on the books in Manchester since the age of 16. The first 18 months of his time at the Red Bull Arena were on loan before the move was made permanent this summer.
However, Leipzig have another way into the mind of Guardiola. Olmo spent seven years in the academy at Barcelona at the time the later Bayern coach was in charge at the Camp Nou. With the senior team dominating opposition, that style of play was passed down into the youth teams and Olmo grew up being a disciple of the Guardiola way.
Watch: The best of Olmo the Magician
After opting for a move to Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb in a desire to play more and hone his skills, the 23-year-old is now already one of the finest playmakers in the game with Leipzig. His Bundesliga figures last season consist of five goals and nine assists. The latter was the same amount that Jadon Sancho, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman all produced.
On top of that, Olmo had the sixth-most shots in the division with 77 and created a total of 42 chances for teammates. The Spain international’s performances made him hot property over the summer as he went on to play at UEFA Euro 2020 and then also at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. It meant he returned to club action a little late, but a start in last weekend’s game against Bayern came at an opportune moment ahead of the trip to England.
3) Finest supporting cast
Yet Olmo is just one of the many cogs in the Leipzig attacking wheel. Dominik Szoboszlai is the latest player to get things moving now he’s fit following his January move from Red Bull Salzburg. The Hungarian was the Austrian Bundesliga Player of the Season in 2019/20 after having a direct hand in 23 goals from just 27 games. Twelve in 12 followed in the first half of the following year prior to his move, and now he’s up and running in Germany with a healthy three goals in his first five appearances.
The attacking fun doesn’t stop there, though. Emil Forsberg caught the eye over the summer with his four goals for Sweden at the Euros, but he’s been doing the job for years at Leipzig. Since coming up to the Bundesliga in 2016, he’s been scoring or setting up a goal pretty much every other game on average, including a league-leading 19 in his maiden campaign.
Watch: The best of the creative Forsberg
And then there’s Christopher Nkunku. The Frenchman will shoot, will pass, will cross – anything to get the ball into a danger area. He created the same number of chances as Kimmich last season, despite Leipzig’s goals total being well down on that of the champions. The 23-year-old is another who averages a goal contribution every other game.
Leipzig certainly have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with City and will create chances, but they also know how to keep things tight at the other end. They boasted the Bundesliga’s meanest defence last season and have unearthed yet another central defensive gem from France in Mohamed Simakan. The 21-year-old tops the league for the number of duels he’s won over the first four matchdays; his challenge success rate of over 72 per cent is the fourth best in the division; while he’s also proven he’s a cool head on the ball with a pass completion rate of 88 per cent.
But assuming City do get past him and Willi Orban, they then have to beat Peter Gulacsi. The new Leipzig captain posted better figures last season than even Manuel Neuer, with the experienced Hungarian keeping a Bundesliga-leading 15 clean sheets last season.
Watch: Gulacsi’s top 5 saves
The Cityzens are also yet to really click into gear in attack this season. You can look at their numbers and think 11 goals from four league games is more than good. But 10 of those came by putting five each past promoted Norwich City and 10-man Arsenal at home. They were a little toothless in their first match as they lost 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur, while they only got one last weekend away at Leicester.
4) Welcome to Manchester
Leipzig’s Champions League group has a touch of familiarity to it this year. Like last season they’ve been drawn against Paris Saint-Germain and a Manchester club. On that occasion it was United, this time City. Basaksehir have been swapped for Club Brugge.
And for those with short memories, Leipzig got out of that group, finishing second behind PSG only on away goals in the head-to-head. Die Roten Bullen booked their place in the knockout stage on the back of a seriously impressive win over United as well.
RB frequently sliced through the Red Devils’ defence on the final matchday and found themselves 2-0 up in 13 minutes thanks to Angelino and Amadou Haidara. Justin Kluivert then added a third in the 69th minute before United attempted a desperate late rally with two goals in the final 10 minutes.
“It’s a tough one but it feels so good, especially against them,” Angelino said after the full-time whistle. You can only imagine what his thoughts will be if Leipzig can repeat the feat against his former side in the blue half of Manchester.
5) Spirit of 2019/20
2020 won’t go down as anybody’s favourite year, but Leipzig will look back on the 2019/20 campaign with a strong sense of pride. In only their second appearance in the Champions League, Die Roten Bullen made it all the way to the semi-finals in Lisbon, turfing out established names along the way in Benfica, Lyon, Zenit St. Petersburg, Tottenham and Atletico Madrid before finally falling to PSG in the final four.
It took City as a club three attempts to finally get out of a Champions League group, and five years to first make it to a semi-final. They came a step closer to their dream of being European champions last season when they got to a maiden final. But Leipzig are ahead of the City curve by some way.
The vast majority of the squad that made it to the last four under Julian Nagelsmann is still there and has only improved over time. Plus the seriously talented additions that have come in to further supplement the team.
Many will have written off Leipzig in this group, but they’re still riding a Champions League wave that continued through last season when they managed to beat the previous year’s beaten finalists as well. Die Roten Bullen will have a say, starting at City.