Rebuilt Leipzig ready for Man City Champions League test

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RB Leipzig face Champions League title holders Manchester City on Wednesday, having emerged strongly from a summer rebuild which could have derailed the young club.

Champions League regulars who had just won their second German Cup in succession, Leipzig lost four first-team players to big money deals in the summer, underlining their place in the European football hierarchy – still viewed as a small-club outsider.

Centre-back Josko Gvardiol moved to Wednesday’s opponents City, midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai to Liverpool and top scorer Christopher Nkunku to Chelsea all for large transfer fees, while Konrad Laimer went to domestic rivals Bayern Munich on a free.

But continuing their remarkable ability to identify and develop young talent, RB brought in several new players from across Europe, many of whom have already shone in a Leipzig uniform.

Leipzig’s record so far this season – seven wins and just one loss from nine matches in all competitions while having faced Bayern twice – shows Marco Rose’s rebuilt side is ahead of schedule and likely to be a real challenge for Man City.

‘SO MUCH CHEMISTRY’

Leipzig took in more than 240 million euros ($250 million) in the summer, much of which was promptly re-invested in new arrivals.

Lois Openda, who scored 21 goals to help Lens finish just one point behind champions Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 last season, joined the club, as did 20-year-old PSG loanee Xavi Simons.

Leipzig brought in Castello Lukeba, 20, from Lyon to replace Gvardiol at centre-back, while Slovenian striking prodigy Benjamin Sesko, also 20, joined from sister club Red Bull Salzburg.

The additions, particularly those up front, have quickly taken to life in Leipzig.

Of particular concern was replacing Nkunku’s output, with the France forward scoring 47 and assisting 43 in 119 matches during his time in Saxony.

Simons has three goals and four assists after six league fixtures, while Openda already has four strikes and has laid on two more across the same period.

Sesko, a towering striker who has been compared with Erling Haaland, has five goals in all competitions despite starting just two of his eight games with the club.

Speaking after Leipzig held Bayern to a 2-2 draw on Saturday night, Rose admitted “too much happened to us in the summer” but put the club’s form down to immediate chemistry.

“The squad, from day one in the training camp, (came together as) a real group.”

“There was so much chemistry straight away, so much energy, the way the boys work together every day – it’s fun.”

Rose said maintaining such a strong connection was not a given.

“We need to keep working on it, because you can lose something like that quickly if you’re not careful, if you’re sloppy, or if you start getting full of yourself.

“I’m the boss and I’m taking care that this doesn’t happen, so we can take this energy and this togetherness with us in the next few weeks into phases where maybe it doesn’t work so well.”

Even the untimely firing of sporting director Max Eberl on Friday which RB said was due to “a lack of committment to the club, to the city” amid rumours he is following the well-trodden path to Bayern was not enough to destabilise Leipzig.

‘TRY AND DO BETTER’

One constant in RB’s recent form has been the Leipzig-born-and-raised Rose.

Since taking over early last season, no team has tallied more points in the league than Leipzig. Rose has won two and drawn two of his four meetings with Bayern.

Last year however, Leipzig met eventual champions Man City in the last 16.

A 1-1 draw in Germany was followed up by a 7-0 thumping in Manchester, with Haaland – who played under Rose at Salzburg – scoring five goals before Pep Guardiola took him off in the 63rd minute.

City’s 2-1 defeat at Wolves on Saturday followed a midweek defeat to Newcastle in the League Cup, the first time they have lost two in a row since January.

But they remain top of the Premier League and are a force to be reckoned with.

Rose said on Saturday “there’s no secret what we’ve got waiting for us” but was confident “we’ll get our chances there.”

“We’ll try and do better than we did in Manchester a few months ago, but I have complete trust in the boys that they’re up for it.”

Source: AFP

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