It’s fair to say that, this season, Liverpool have been nothing like the winning machine that swept all aside on their way to Premier League glory last year. A team that once could only win, even if performance levels dipped, are now finding it difficult to pick up victories in the current campaign. Seven draws from 18 games at the time of writing suggests that the team have lost their ruthless streak. The goals have dried up, and Jurgen Klopp has been left scratching his head as to what has gone wrong.
They’ll want to recover their form sooner rather than later, as the Champions League last 16 tie against RB Leipzig is not too far away. Liverpool exited the competition at this stage last season by losing to Altético Madrid, and they’ll be hoping to avoid a similar fate against Julian Nagelsmann’s side this time around.
But you would expect that Leipzig will be licking their lips at the prospect of taking on the English champions in their current vulnerable state. The German outfit have proved in recent times that they can dispatch English opposition, notably knocking out Tottenham Hotspur en route to the semi-finals of last year’s Champions League, while they also gave Manchester United a lesson in denying Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side a place in the knockout phase this season.
Liverpool will still head into the tie as favourites in the Champions League odds, but they’ll need to hope that their scoring form returns ahead of what will be a difficult challenge at the Red Bull Arena. In recent weeks, the form of talented front three Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino has stuttered, and Liverpool have found both goals and wins hard to come by in the Premier League. They have slipped down the table as a result, calling into question their title credentials.
Leipzig are a team that can sense vulnerability. When Manchester United went to Germany needing a win to advance to the last 16, Nagelsmann’s team pounced upon their doubts and uncertainties, flying into a 3-0 lead, making United’s eventual comeback all in vain. It’s that kind of mentality that Leipzig will look to take into the Liverpool tie, and if Klopp’s men are not at their very best then a punishing evening could be on the cards in the first leg.
But there are plenty of areas of weakness for Leipzig too, and Klopp and his team of analysts will be working hard to identify how Liverpool can get under the skin of this talented team. They’ll look at United’s 5-0 win over the Germans at Old Trafford as a source of confidence – proof that if you strike the right notes then Leipzig will crumble.
In order to make Leipzig wilt under the pressure, Liverpool will need to first and foremost sort out their own form, and rediscover the winning formula domestically. The last few weeks have represented distinct January blues for the Anfield side, and Klopp has a busy few weeks ahead to get Liverpool’s domestic campaign back on track and ensure that their recent wobble does not have a knock-on effect on their Champions League hopes.