RB Leipzig have plenty of reasons to go all out for what would be a big three points against Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League this week. bundesliga.com suggests five key motivating factors on Leipzig's side...
1) Away they go
Common football belief will tell you that Red Star Belgrade's stadium - colloquially known as the Marakana - is a tricky place to go and get a result. The flip side of that for a team hungry to make its mark on the Champions League like Leipzig is that securing an away win in the competition on what is deemed to be a difficult trip can be a major boon for their belief.
Marco Rose's side have every chance of doing just that and continuing a good recent habit of picking up group stage wins around the continent. After a 2-0 win at Celtic and a 4-0 victory at Shakhtar Donetsk last autumn, Die Roten Bullen's 3-1 win at Young Boys Bern marked their third successive away group stage success. With Red Star unable to win any of their past three home ties in the Champions League and shipping 12 goals in the process, there may be less reason than many expect for the Bundesliga side to be cautious in Belgrade.
2) Xavi Simons ready to shine again
From the moment he stepped into the Leipzig spotlight in the 3-0 victory against the mighty Bayern Munich in August's Supercup curtain-raiser, midfielder Xavi Simons has lit up Leipzig. Indeed, the Paris Saint-Germain loanee made a vital contribution in the 3-1 win in the first meeting with Red Star Belgrade a fortnight ago, smashing a great strike in the second half for his first-ever Champions League goal.
Having weighed in with an impressive three goals and six assists in his opening ten German top-flight encounters, the 20-year-old Amsterdam native has already picked up a Goal of the Month award and received a Rookie of the Month nomination for his formidable efforts, while coach Rose has been full of praise for a player who has caught the fans' imagination at the Red Bull Arena.
"He is an incredible footballer," the tactician said after the sides' first meeting in Leipzig. "He played superbly again today and scored a great goal. He is a lot of fun."
Xavi will be confident of netting again in the return meeting in Serbia.
Watch: Xavi Simons' super strike wins Goal of the Month
3) Eyes on the prize
Leipzig's win against Red Star in Germany was a vital one for their Champions League campaign, as it moved them onto six points in Group G, second behind leaders Manchester City. Should Die Roten Bullen beat Red Star and the reigning Champions League holders beat Young Boys Bern at home at the same time, the Bundesliga outfit will be assured of their spot in the knockout stages ahead of a daunting trip to Manchester in the next matchday.
With the DFB Cup holders knocked out of that competition at Wolfsburg in the past week and suffering a Bundesliga defeat to Mainz at the weekend, ensuring an early progression in the Champions League with a win would be a timely boost to allow Marco Rose's charges to focus more on domestic business in the coming weeks.
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4) Chance to make mark
Offering eager players the chance to shine on the Champions League stage is a core part of Leipzig's identity, and several of their current crop of stars have seized that chance so far this campaign. As well as Xavi's aforementioned heroics in the first meeting with Red Star, Loïs Openda had the great personal pleasure of scoring his first goal in the competition against holders Manchester City in a 3-1 defeat.
The Belgian forward and Benjamin Šeško - who likewise netted for the first time in the Champions League in Bern - will be among those chomping at the bit ahead of another meeting with a Red Star Belgrade backline that struggled to cope with Leipzig's attacking quality in Germany.
Watch: Leipzg celebrate 2023 Suercup win
5) Rose's revenge
The Leipzig boss has unwanted history against Red Star which he may still want to address despite the victory in the first meeting. Back in his Salzburg coaching days, Rose suffered a heartbreaking Champions League play-off defeat against the Belgrade outfit, on away goals.
The elimination happened back in 2018/19 when the Austrians were held to a scoreless first-leg draw in Belgrade before seeing their qualification hopes dashed following a 2-2 draw in Salzburg - with the Leipzig pair of Amadou Haidara and Xaver Schlager among the disappointed Salzburg players that night. Rose will have the chance to put that bad memory firmly to bed by winning and potentially celebrating Leipzig's advancement to the round of 16 when he visits Serbia this week.
2023/24 European fixtures for German clubs
Check out all the fixtures for the seven Bundesliga teams competing across the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Conference League this season.
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