LINE: RB Leipzig +340 | Draw +290 | PSG -129
KICK OFF: Tuesday, August 18th, 3PM EST
WHERE: Estadio do Sport, Lisbon, Portugal
WATCH: CBS All Access
I was one of the few who predicted these two to come out on top in their quarterfinals.
I certainly didn’t see them doing it in such a dramatic fashion or with unexpected heroes from the bench. 21 year old American Tyler Adams scored the winner & his first goal for RB Leipzig to send them into the semifinals. Veteran journeyman Choupo-Moting sparked PSG’s front line into life, breaking Atalanta’s & every neutral fans hearts with his injury time winner.
JULIAN NAGELSMANN VS THOMAS TUCHEL
12 years ago a knee injury ended Julian Nagelsmann’s professional playing career at FC Augsburg. He was ready to walk away from the game until Thomas Tuchel; coach of Augsburg’s reserve side at the time convinced Julian to scout opponents for him.
The rest is history & both have gone to the top of the game with very different playing styles. Nagelsmann deploys ‘Ralfball‘, a style of play you’ll see at all clubs owned by Red Bull & driven by their former Head of Sport & Development Ralph Rangnick. The main emphasis is high energy, aggressive pressing & fluidity in attack.
Thomas Tuchel falls under the new generation of ‘Laptop Managers‘ & he has a more structured approach. One of his key principle’s is every one of his players in possession is given at least two passing options & he drills his sides to create overloads in the wide areas.
From a tactical standpoint this will be an enthralling battle between two of Germany’s brightest managers.
Leipzig go into this game as heavy underdogs with the pressure off & that can play in your favor as we saw with Lyon against Manchester City.
With Timo Werner moving on to Chelsea, a lot of people wrote Leipzig off against Atlético Madrid. After the game Nagelsmann highlighted why Werner’s absence wasn’t an issue “Atlético wouldn’t have been the best opponents for Timo Werner because there is not a lot of space behind the defensive line,“. Leipzig will really feel his absence on Tuesday night against a PSG side who always show attacking intent & play a higher defensive line.
Dayot Upamecano was outstanding against Diego Costa winning the physical battle with ease. His 30 to 40 yard dribbles into space were great to watch. When you play against a team as defensive & deep as Atlético you’re less likely to get punished on the counter if you lose possession. Against PSG, Upamecano will need to be more disciplined because the pace & creativity of Neymar & Kylian Mbappé could really punish Leipzig with the space he leaves behind.
Marcel Sabitzer produced another top class performance playing a part in both goals. His cross for Dani Olmo’s opener was inch perfect. No one could have played that ball better. In the build up for Tyler Adams’s winner, the vision, skill & creativity he showed to release Angeliño down the left with the outside of his right foot was delicious. Leipzig will again rely on the Austrian to unlock PSG’s defense.
Barring any injuries, Nagelsmann picks the same starting eleven. The biggest issue he needs to address is the problems João Félix caused his side when he came on in the 58th minute. His dribbling, pace, creativity & movement opened them up a few times & Neymar, Ángel Di María & Mbappé all have similar qualities.
Tuchel has some tough decisions to make with injuries & players returning from suspension.
Keylor Navas has been ruled out after he exited the quarterfinal in the 79th minute with a hamstring problem. He made some important saves against Atalanta & the experience the Costa Rican brings to the Parisian’s back line is invaluable after winning the Champions League 3 seasons in a row with Real Madrid.
Fortunately, his replacement Sergio Rico does have European experience & won the Europa League in 2014/15 with Sevilla.
It was great seeing Kylian Mbappé come off the bench & have a real impact against Atalanta. The Champions League is all about seeing the best players in the world competing against each other. The question is does he start here? I think he does for the following three reasons.
Firstly, Mbappé’s pace caused Atalanta problems straight away, getting behind their back line a number of times. I feel the Italian side were a little naive affording him so much space down the left but I don’t see Leipzig making the same mistake.
Secondly, Neymar looked a different player with Mbappé on the pitch. Without him he tried to be the hero, trying to do everything himself. With Kylian he knows he has a player on his level & he looked to play the World Cup winner in time & time again.
Finally, you have the chance of reaching the Champions League final you have to take the gamble. No one knows if PSG, Tuchel or these players will ever get an opportunity this good again.
Choupo-Moting’s rise from struggler at Stoke to game changer for PSG is quite remarkable. He is the hero but I don’t see him starting here. Mauro Icardi offered nothing against Atalanta but I still see him getting the nod. The Argentinian is the best number 9 & the most natural finisher on PSG’s books, he has to start. Before his infamous fallout with the Inter Milan hierarchy he scored 53 goals across two seasons in Serie A & was one of the most coveted strikers in Europe.
Di María returns from suspension & should go straight into the midfield 3 at the expense of Ander Herrera. The Argentinian offers a lot more dynamism & creativity in the center of the park which PSG lacked against Atalanta.
WHO COMES OUT ON TOP?
PSG are heavy favorites but what we learned from the quarterfinals is that you could choose who to back on the flip of a coin. These 1 leg knockout ties can completely turn on their head with one mistake, a missed chance, wrong tactics, a penalty or a red card.
In my first article for High Press Soccer I explored the idea of this year being Germany’s in the Champions League and replicating England’s success last season with two teams in the final. I’m sticking to my guns & going for a RB Leipzig VS Bayern Munich final.
PREDICTION: Leipzig on the Money Line at +340.
WHERE TO BET THE 2019-20 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.