Football Features

Spurs vs RB Leipzig: Mourinho can exploit Nagelsmann’s high-octane approach

By Chris Smith

Published: 13:48, 16 December 2019

Tottenham Hotspur have been handed a deceptively tough Champions League last-16 draw in the form of RB Leipzig.

With Liverpool drawing Atletico Madrid, Manchester City going up against 13-time winners Real Madrid and Chelsea facing German champions Bayern Munich, Spurs’ lot – at least on paper – looks rather favourable.

However, looks can be deceiving and Julian Nagelsmann’s side currently top the Bundesliga having lost just two of their opening 15 games and scoring more goals (42) than any other side in the division.

Last season’s Champions League runners-up going up against the Bundesliga leaders, with a little bit of Jose Mourinho thrown into the mix is bound to serve up a tantalising encounter.

So, here is everything you need to know about Tottenham’s Champions League clash with RB Leipzig.

When is Spurs vs RB Leipzig?

As group winners, Leipzig have earned the right to host the second leg of this clash at Red Bull Arena on March 10. Before that, they face a trip to north London on February 18.

Kick-off times are yet to be decided but Uefa Champions League matches usually begin at either 8:00 PM or 5:55 PM GMT.

Spurs’ Premier League fixtures either side of Leipzig clash

08/02/20: Aston Villa (A)

18/02/20: RB Leipzig (H)

22/02/20: Chelsea (A)

29/02/20: Wolves (H)

07/03/20: Burnley (A)

10/03/20: RB Leipzig (A)

14/03/20: Manchester United (H)

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RB Leipzig strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

  • Headed up by striker Timo Werner, Leipzig are a strong attacking force and already have a division-high 42 goals in 15 Bundesliga matches so far. The likes of Marcel Sabitzer and Yussuf Poulsen both offer varying threats going forwards, making the German side’s approach highly unpredictable.
  • Under Nagelsmann, Leipzig have become experts in an intense high press and rank third in the Bundesliga for possession won in the opposition final third (74 times). This press also makes them lethal on the counter-attack, with Leipzig scoring more goals from this situation (5) than any other Bundesliga side this season.

Timo Werner

Weaknesses

  • RB Leipzig’s entire existence to date has been predicated on developing young talent, then flipping them for a higher price. As a result, they now have the youngest average starting XI in the Bundesliga at just 23 years and three months. While this makes them dynamic, mobile and exciting, the naivety it brings also leads to a number of individual mistakes, with Leipzig making the second-highest number of errors leading to shots (7) in the German top flight this term.
  • Leipzig only know one way to play and that is all-out attack. While this has brought Nagelsmann’s side much success so far, it does leave them at great risk when trying to defend leads as, well, they just don’t try to. Die Roten Bullen continue to play high-risk passes and insist on working through the press, even as they take a one-goal lead into added time. It’s commendable that they stick so strongly to their mantra but heading into the Champions League knockout rounds, this is definitely something opponents could seek to exploit.

Prediction

While Spurs look like they’ve been given the easiest draw of the English clubs on paper, their clash with Leipzig will be anything but a sinch.

The Bundesliga outfit are mobile, dynamic, unpredictable and extremely confident and if Mourinho doesn’t have his side pumped and at 100 per cent on the day, they could easily be swept aside by Nagelsmann’s high-octane brand of football.

That said, Mourinho himself is ridiculously well-versed in tough Champions League clashes and is a tactician of the highest order. The Portuguese alone gives Spurs an added edge over a number of other remaining sides in the competition.

Don’t be surprised if they run up a lead in London before playing out a tight draw at Red Bull Arena – Spurs to progress

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