Timo Werner is gone, this is their first ever Champions League quarter final and they haven’t played in seven weeks! RB Leipzig is thrown into the deep against Atletico Madrid … but they are used to navigating unfamiliar waters
- RB Leipzig has to compete against an experienced and in shape Atletico Madrid team
- They don’t have Timo Werner to call on and haven’t played in nearly seven weeks
- Thursday’s clash is the first quarter-final of the Champions League ever in Leipzig
- Leipzig showed to Tottenham that they do not fear the big opportunity
RB Leipzig should be no stranger to a new environment. For a club that celebrated their 11th anniversary in May, unknown waters are regularly sailed.
Still, the uncertainty and unfamiliarity around the Champions League quarter-final with Atletico Madrid on Thursday poses a curious challenge for Julian Nagelsmann and his players.
This is Leipzig’s first venture into the knockout stage and its first meeting with the Spanish opposition.
RB Leipzig will play their first competitive match in almost seven weeks on Thursday
Julian Nagelsmann and his players will face Atlético Madrid in the quarter finals of the Champions League
And for Nagelsmann, this is a first game without Timo Werner’s talisman and, for his remaining players, a first competitive game in almost seven weeks.
While Leipzig played Germany’s fifth tier just a decade ago, their icy dismantling of Tottenham in the last 16 suggests they won’t be impressed on the biggest stage.
Burnout shouldn’t be a problem either, as they closed the Bundesliga season – securing third place – in June.
But closing the gap Werner has left is a tough test for Nagelsmann, the 33-year-old Leipzig coach. Before the £ 53 million forward moves to Chelsea, he delivered 34 goals and 13 assists this season.
They won’t be able to call on Timo Werner, who joined Chelsea this summer in a £ 53 million deal
The way Leipzig dismantled Tottenham showed that they will not be impressed by the big event
Patrik Schick, on loan from Roma, and Marcel Sabitzer are among their alternative threats. But with his pace, neat feet and smart moves, Werner was the chief surgeon – he scored one and created another – when Tottenham fell apart in the 4-0 aggregate defeat.
The rise of the 24-year-old epitomizes Leipzig’s ability to find and nurture young talent, which contributed to their rise.
Players of his kind don’t come by often and Nagelsmann is starved of opportunities to forge a new attacker.
Leipzig returned to practice on July 22 and has only had one friendly against Wolfsburg to prepare for this match.
Marcel Sabitzer will be one of the main threats to Leipzig in Werner’s absence
Diego Simeone’s Atletico has experience on their side and is unbeaten in their last seven
Against Atletico, his exhausted side will have little time to stay on its feet. Under Diego Simeone, the Spanish team has honed their concussive style – built on ferocious intensity and discipline – and Atletico has been unbeaten for seven games since Leipzig’s last league match.
For Simeone’s side, there should be fewer strangers in the run-up to Thursday’s match in Lisbon.
While this one-off quarter-final is unlike any other, Atletico is well versed in big European evenings, with five finals in the past decade.
However, their preparations were confused when attacker Angel Correa and defender Sime Vrsaljko tested positive for the corona virus late last week. That disrupted Atletico’s training schedule and set out travel plans for a while before retesting players and staff – all with negative results.
Correa and Vrsaljko isolate at home and will miss the rest of the tournament, while midfielder Thomas Partey – wanted by Arsenal – could also miss. He is struggling with a muscle injury.