RB Leipzig and Timo Werner are looking to get off the mark in the UEFA Champions League when they travel to holders Real Madrid, who are without Karim Benzema on Wednesday (kick-off: 9pm CEST).
Leipzig were beaten in their opening group game by Shakhtar Donetsk – a result which ultimately cost Domenico Tedesco his job. He was replaced last Thursday by Marco Rose, who had an immediate impact by leading Die Roten Bullen to a 3-0 victory at home to Borussia Dortmund. He paired Werner with 2021/22 Bundesliga Player of the Season Christopher Nkunku, but goals came from all over with Willi Orban, Dominik Szoboszlai and Amadou Haidara on the scoresheet. Rose stuck with a back four but may fancy reverting to a more familiar three, with Orban flanked by Mohamed Simakan – the scorer of the one goal against Shakhtar – and summer arrival Abdou Diallo. It will likely be one of Szoboszlai and Emil Forsberg in the playmaker role in the absence of Dani Olmo, while Andre Silva provides a classic centre-forward alternative up front.
The 14-time European champions began the defence of their Champions League crown with a 3-0 win at Celtic last week, with all three goals coming in 21 second-half minutes. The Spanish champions have won all seven fixtures so far this season, including 4-1 against Mallorca on Sunday, but had to do so without captain and talisman Benzema after he went off with a muscle strain in Glasgow. Three of the regular back four have Bundesliga pasts in Dani Carvajal, Antonio Rüdiger and David Alaba, while stand-in skipper Toni Kroos also made his way in his native Germany at Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen. Los Blancos and boss Carlo Ancelotti – a title-winning coach at Bayern – will need to be on the ball with Die Roten Bullen in town if they are to avoid making if four straight years without winning their opening home game of the Champions League group stage.
- Werner scored against Real in last season’s Champions League quarter-final and won the competition the previous year with Chelsea.
- Nkunku scored five and assisted one in Leipzig’s three away games in last year’s Champions League. Only Benzema, Sebastien Haller (both eight) and Mohamed Salah (seven) had a hand in more goals away from home over the whole campaign.
- Silva scored twice in a 3-0 win against Real for Sevilla in September 2018.
- Leipzig are unbeaten against Spanish clubs, beating Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the 2019/20 single-leg quarter-final and progressing past Real Sociedad in last season’s Europa League (W1, D1).
- Los Blancos were beaten 2-0 by Wolfsburg the last time they faced a German opponent for the first time.
- Madrid have won only nine of their last 18 European home games (D3, L6).
Real: Courtois – Carvajal, Rüdiger, Alaba, Mendy – Modric, Tchouameni, Kroos (c) – Valverde, Rodrygo, Vinicius
Out: Benzema (muscular), Militao (hamstring), Odriozola (muscular)
Coach: Carlo Ancelotti
Leipzig: Gulacsi (c) – Simakan, Orban, Diallo – Henrichs, Laimer, Kampl, Raum – Szoboszlai – Nkunku, Werner
Out: Klostermann (ankle), Olmo (knee), Poulsen (thigh)
Coach: Marco Rose