Konrad Laimer (l.) and Christopher Nkunku (r.) will look to book RB Leipzig’s place in the UEFA Europa League final by getting another win over Rangers in the last four. - © IMAGO / Matthias Koch
Konrad Laimer (l.) and Christopher Nkunku (r.) will look to book RB Leipzig’s place in the UEFA Europa League final by getting another win over Rangers in the last four. - © IMAGO / Matthias Koch

5 reasons RB Leipzig will beat Rangers in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals


With a frightening attack spearheaded by Christopher Nkunku, returning stars in defence and a formidable away record, RB Leipzig can drive home their first-leg advantage when they meet Rangers again in Thursday's UEFA Europa League semi-final.

>> Click here for the Rangers vs. Leipzig LIVE blog!

bundesliga.com outlines why…

1) The Nkunkunator

It took Leipzig until the 85th minute to get a winner in the first leg in Germany, with Angelino volleying home a cracker to give the Bundesliga side a useful lead in the tie. That match also featured a rare off night for Christopher Nkunku, who has been one of the most consistent players in world football of late. The French attacker stung the palms of Allan McGregor early in the second half, before brilliantly gliding his way through the Rangers defence and around the keeper on 70 minutes. Nkunku fired over with his finish, but that should worry Rangers. Leipzig's star man seldom goes two games without making a telling impact.

The 24-year-old was named as the Bundesliga's Player of the Month for March - for the third time this season - and was rightly given a (long overdue) maiden call-up to the France national team during the last international break. It's not hard to see why - his numbers are unbelievable. Nkunku is the only player in the Bundesliga on double figures for both goals (18) and assists (13), while he has respectively provided another 13 and five across the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and DFB Cup.

Watch: Nkunku named Player of the Month for March

In short, that is 31 goals and 18 assists in 48 competitive outings this season, and he has only failed to be directly involved in a Leipzig goal in six of their 22 games in all competitions in 2022. This season alone Nkunku has found the net against Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Sociedad, Atalanta, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, among many others.

2) Bolstered backline

Leipzig struggled to fill the Dayot Upamecano-sized gap at centre-back initially this season, but they have become ominously impenetrable with Willi Orban, Josko Gvardiol and Mohamed Simakan now the established first-choice members of a three-man backline. Domenico Tedesco was forced to shuffle his pack for the first leg, however, with Orban, Simakan and tigerish midfielder Kevin Kampl all suspended.

Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann, who joined Gvardiol at the back in the first leg, are likely to make way for the tried-and-trusted Orban and Simakan in the reverse fixture. With those two regularly featuring, Die Roten Bullen have conceded a league-low 14 goals in the 15 Bundesliga games under Tedesco since the turn of the year - keeping a league-high eight clean sheets.

Willi Orban (l.) and Josko Gvardiol (r.) are two of the cornerstones of the Leipzig defence. - imago

3) Leipzig will thrive on the counter

Angelino's late goal in the first leg has changed everything for the second. Rangers had containment in mind in Germany, ceding the initiative by dropping deep. Leipzig enjoyed 67 percent of the ball, but found it hard to pick their way through the sea of blue in front of them.

With home advantage at Ibrox and a goal down in the tie, Rangers will be obliged - at some point - to take more risks in the return match. That will play into Leipzig's favour, given that their form on the road under Tedesco has been remarkable. Before their match at Borussia Mönchengladbach on Monday, Leipzig had reeled off eight away wins on the spin - scoring 27 goals and conceding only four times. In the Bundesliga Tedesco's team hit six at Hertha Berlin and Greuther Fürth, as well as scoring impressive wins over Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. They also won at Real Sociedad and Atalanta in the two previous rounds of the Europa League.

Watch: Leipzig's 10 best Bundesliga goals this season

4) Tactical mastermind

All of which brings us to the brains behind the outfit: Tedesco. Things may not have ultimately worked out for him at Schalke in his first career posting as a top-flight head coach, but it should not be forgotten that he led a side (relegated three years later) to a runners-up finish in his debut campaign.

The 36-year-old clearly knows what he is doing, then, and fittingly for a man who holds a master’s degree in innovation management, is not afraid to try out new ideas on the pitch. Playing Nkunku further forward as a striker, rather than as an attacking playmaker, is one such move that has already brought rich dividends. In all, Leipzig have won 16 of their 25 games under Tedesco, drawing six and losing just three - while scoring 55 times.

Watch: How Tedesco has improved Leipzig

5) Runners from deep

Most opposition teams have their hands full trying (and invariably failing) to keep tabs on Nkunku. In the unlikely event that he does have another off day, then there’s still any combination of Andre SilvaDani Olmo, Dominik Szoboszlai and Emil Forsberg to keep defenders on their toes. That, in turn, plays into the hands of Leipzig’s deep-lying runners, who burst forward into space. In short, Rangers will be playing their very own game of Leipzig-Whack-A-Mole.

Angelino is adept at this on the left with his teasing deliveries into the box, while Benjamin Henrichs is growing into the role on the right under Tedesco. But arguably the team's greatest secret weapon is the perfectly timed runs of Konrad Laimer. The latter is an expert at arriving late and unannounced into the box to devastating effect: he got both assists against Bayern on Matchday 21, has three league goals and two assists since Matchday 26, and set up Nkunku for the vital opener against Atalanta in the quarter-final second leg victory.

It all makes Tedesco's Leipzig a very hard side to beat. Only two teams have prevented them finding the net since he joined: Arminia Bielefeld in just his third game in charge, and fellow Europa League semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 27.

They have also scored in all 11 of their assignments in UEFA competition this season: three across two legs against Atalanta, six against Club Brugge, five against both Real Sociedad and Manchester City, and four against PSG. Ibrox might be a tough place to go to, but not many people would bet against Leipzig adding to Angelino's crucial winner from the first leg.