RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann expects out-of-form Liverpool to come out fighting like an “injured boxer” in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday.
Nagelsmann believes Liverpool will be fully focused on European success after letting their Premier League title defence slip away following three consecutive league defeats as Manchester City dominate in England.
Premier League champions Liverpool have fallen 13 points adrift of City after being upstaged 3-1 by Leicester City on Saturday.
Despite Liverpool’s woes, Nagelsmann believes the Reds’ class will shine through at Puskas Arena in Hungary.
“I don’t think that I have to warn my team about an injured boxer. I believe that my team knows that this is a world class team,” Nagelsmann, whose Leipzig reached last season’s Champions League semi-finals, said.
“Also, if you listen to what the teams in the Premier League say, despite their tiny crisis, managers are still saying after every match that Liverpool are, with Manchester City, still one of the hardest teams to beat in the Premier League.
“That is because they have a very balanced squad. Hard to assess and variable. As [Leipzig goalkeeper] Peter Gulasci mentioned already, they can take care of a lot of things at once.”
We’re in this together, Reds pic.twitter.com/pPpS4Z2p6m
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 15, 2021
Having won only three of their last 12 matches across all competitions, the Reds seem a completely different outfit from the team that lifted their first English title in 30 years last season.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last five away games against German sides, in all competitions (W3 D2). Their last defeat was against Bayer Leverkusen in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in April 2002.
But Nagelsmann is expecting Klopp and Liverpool to be desperate to leave their miserable league form behind them when they travel to Budapest to face the second-placed Bundesliga side.
“This crisis regarding their result is not in the Champions League, it is in the Premier League,” Nagelsmann added.
“There is a big difference. this is a completely different tournament. After their loss against Leicester on Saturday, they basically gave up on the title race in the Premier League.
“That’s how Jurgen [Klopp] answered the question. Therefore, their sole focus is now the Champions League, since its the only competition with the chance of winning a title.
“Therefore I expect them to enter the game with everything that they have and try to leave their recent results in the league behind.”
None of Leipzig’s 22 Champions League games have ended goalless – that is more than any other side in the history of the competition.
In the Champions League this season, Leipzig have allowed their opponents only 8.9 passes on average before intervening defensively (PPDA) – the lowest average of any side in the 2020-21 competition, highlighting their intense pressing regimen.