With their Premier League title challenge all but over, the UEFA Champions League is now the only competition Liverpool can win this season. They face Julian Nagelsmann's tricky RB Leipzig, who are capable of causing an upset against the biggest teams in Europe.
This will be the first competitive encounter between RB Leipzig and Liverpool. The Round of 16 clash promises to be another massive hurdle for Liverpool, who are going through a rough patch in 2021.
The Reds have won 3 games out of 12 since they gave Crystal Palace a 7-0 hammering back in December. RB Leipzig, on the other hand, go into the tie full of confidence having won their last four matches in all competitions.
Budapest’s Puskas Arena hosts the game, due to COVID-19’s continued impact on the world, with the second leg potentially being played away from Anfield as well. The injury bill has never been clean for Liverpool this season. Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are all sidelined for the rest of the season. Fabinho, Naby Keita and Diogo Jota will also miss out due to injuries.
The lack of options is evident and the playing eleven for Liverpool almost picks itself. The German club will be without Emil Forsberg, Konrad Laimer and Dominik Szoboszlai for the last-16 first-leg tie.
Keeping all that in mind, let us take a look at the five key battles from this encounter which could decide the outcome:
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool: 5 Key Battles
#5 Yussuf Poulsen vs Alisson Becker
Life hasn't been as easy lately as it has been in the last couple of seasons for Liverpool shot-stopper Alisson Becker. Alisson uncharacteristically made two errors against title rivals Manchester City that led directly to goals.
The Brazilian was at fault again for Leicester City’s second goal on Saturday as the Foxes came from behind to claim all three points.
Against him will be Leipzig's #9 Yussuf Poulsen. The Danish striker has been in and out of the team all season but should start in this important game. Poulsen’s most impressive quality is his work-rate.
The 26-year old forward works incredibly hard for RB Leipzig which allows Nkunku, Olmo and Angelino to bomb forward. Poulsen himself is a big threat in front of goal and is a solid target man.
#4 Lukas Klostermann vs Sadio Mané
A key part of RB Leipzig's defense is 24-year old Lukas Klostermann. The pacey and energetic defender is a solid player and rarely puts a foot wrong in defense. His pace allows him to contribute to the attack while also allowing him to catch players that try to run in behind the back-line.
The German will be up against one of the best wingers in football right now, Sadio Mane. The 28-year old has scored 7 goals and provided 3 assists in the league this season.
With only 1 goal in the Champions League, Liverpool's Sadio Mane will be looking to get on the scoresheet against RB Leipzig.