Real Madrid’s bid for a record-extending 15th European crown takes them to Germany on Tuesday as they kick off the Champions League knockout stage with a tie against RB Leipzig.
Both sides made smooth progress into the last 16. Real Madrid won every match in a group that included Napoli, Braga and Union Berlin. While they left it late at times and needed to come from behind to win on three occasions, there was never really any doubt that Carlo Ancelotti’s team would not only qualify, but do so as group winners.
RB Leipzig had the misfortune of being paired with defending champions Manchester City but it was an otherwise weak group with Young Boys and Red Star Belgrade uncompetitive and only picking up points against one another.
As a result, Marco Rose’s side eased through in 2nd place, but they did lose both games against City. They suffered a 3-1 home defeat on matchday two against the English side, but were leading the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium 2-0, before Pep Guardiola’s men came back to win with three Second Half goals.
That alone should serve as a warning to Real Madrid that Leipzig should not be underestimated. They may only be 5th in the Bundesliga, but they’re a free-scoring side that averages 2.19 goals per game in the league and one that rattled in 13 goals across their six Champions League group matches.
However, Leipzig do not take any real form into this tie. They’ve won just one of their last six Bundesliga matches with both Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen winning at the Red Bull Arena since the turn of the year.
Real Madrid by comparison come into this game on the back of what was close to a perfect weekend. Up against title rivals Girona at the Santiago Bernabeu and with four central defenders missing, it had the potential to be a real test for Los Blancos against the Catalan side that has taken La Liga by storm this season.
However, Ancelotti’s side came out firing and utterly dominated their opponents with a 4-0 victory opening up a five point advantage at the top of a league that Real Madrid are now surely destined to win.
The only sour note for the 2022 Champions League winners was an injury to Jude Bellingham who scored two of the four goals but is set to miss the trip to Germany with a sprained ankle.
Excluding Extra Time against Atletico in the Copa del Rey last month, it’s just one defeat in 34 matches this season in all competitions for Real Madrid. They take both belief and momentum into the Champions League knockout stage, although they were beaten on their only previous visit to the Red Bull Arena.
That was a 3-2 loss in the group stage of last season’s competition. However RB Leipzig’s three goalscorers that evening were Josko Gvardiol, Christopher Nkunku and Timo Werner who have all since moved to Premier League clubs.
While you wouldn’t know it from their results, Real Madrid are in the midst of a defensive injury crisis. David Alaba and Eder Militao are both out long-term while Antonio Rudiger has suffered a fresh setback which ruled him out of the Girona game and will do likewise here.
Nacho was also absent at the weekend but could be fit to start in central defence here alongside midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni who has been forced to drop back in recent weeks. Bellingham’s absence should lead to Brahim Diaz operating in the advanced midfield role behind forwards Vinicius Junior and Rodrgyo.
As for RB Leipzig, they’re in better shape in terms of availability, although do have a doubt over midfielder Amadou Haidara.
Central defender Willi Orban missed the entire group stage due to injury. He’s fit again now but hasn’t completed ninety minutes since returning at the end of last month and Marco Rose will be mulling over whether he’s ready to do so here.
Real Madrid are 6/5 favourites to win the 1st Leg of this tie. You can back RB Leipzig to win at 21/10 while the draw is priced at 13/5.
While 1st Legs of European ties can at times be cagey, the expectation is that this game will produce goals with Both Teams to Score priced at 8/15 while Over 2.5 Goals is 8/13. You can use the Bet Builder to combine the two and back Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams to Score at 8/11.
There’s also a range of #PickYourPunt popular builders to choose from. You can back Real Madrid 2+ Goals, Real Madrid 6+ Shots On Target and Real Madrid 5+ Corners at 100/30. Meanwhile Both Teams 2+ Goals and Both Teams 5+ Corners is priced at 9/1.
The home team’s Lois Openda leads the way in the goalscorer markets. He scored four times in the group stage and is priced at 7/2 to score first and 6/4 to score anytime here.
For the visitors, Vinicius Junior is available at 8/5 to score anytime while you can back his usual strike partner Rodrygo to score anytime at 2/1.
Over 3.5 Goals @ 6/4
Both teams scored in every match that RB Leipzig played in the group stage and they showed in the two games against Manchester City that they don’t fear the elite teams. Encouraged by Real Madrid’s defensive issues, Leipzig will know that they need to make home advantage count if they are to stand a chance of progressing from this tie and that should help open the game up.
Even without Bellingham, Real Madrid have plenty of quality in attack with Brahim Diaz perhaps unfortunate not to start more frequently while Vinicius Junior looked very sharp at the weekend as Los Blancos put four past Girona.
An entertaining, open game is likely to develop and I’m backing over 3.5 Goals at 6/4.
Both Teams To Score, Both Teams 4+ Corners & Both Teams 20+ Booking Points @ 4/1
While Real Madrid are the stronger side and should progress from the tie, there’s certainly reason to think RB Leipzig will be competitive on Tuesday night and have plenty of the game.
They scored twice and forced seven corners at the Etihad against Manchester City in November. They also caused plenty of problems for impressive Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen when they visited this ground in January in a game that ended 3-2 to the visitors.
With Real Madrid hampered by some major absentees, this could end up being quite an even game and I’m going with one of the #PickYourPunt popular builders and backing Both Teams to Score, Both Teams 4+ Corners & Both Teams 20+ Booking Points at 4/1.
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