RB Leipzig vs. Manchester City: Prediction and Preview
We preview the UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg between RB Leipzig and Manchester City, featuring the key insights as well as our Opta pre-match prediction.
RB Leipzig vs Manchester City: The Quick Hits
- Manchester City favourites to take the victory in a crucial first leg against RB Leipzig, according to the Opta supercomputer prediction.
- Man City would extend impressive form to 13 games in the competition with just one defeat.
- RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku aiming to score in three successive UEFA Champions League games.
If Pep Guardiola needs a pick-me-up following Manchester City’s dropped points in the Premier League, then a dash of UEFA Champions League action might be just the tonic.
With 97 wins from his 154 games managed in the tournament, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has the highest win percentage in the competition’s history (63%) of those who have taken charge of more than 50 games. And with Manchester City having only lost one of their previous 17 matches against German sides in the UEFA Champions League, hopes will be high of victory at the Red Bull Arena.
That one defeat against German opposition – last season. Against RB Leipzig. We’ll look at little closer at their two matches in last season’s group stage in just a moment, but Marco Rose’s side have won their last four games in the competition – their longest winning streak in the UCL. But their last three knockout games have seen them suffered defeats without scoring, including back-to-back 2-0 defeats against Liverpool in the last 16 in the 2020-2021 season.
Manchester City 6-3 RB Leipzig: 15 September 2021
RB Leipzig 2-1 Manchester City: 7 December 2021
The two previous meetings between the sides both came in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League group stages with 12 goals being scored across the two matches.
Nine of them came in the first game at the Etihad Stadium, which was Pep Guardiola’s 300th game in charge of the Cityzens, and the 750th of his career. But it was one of his then-new boys who lit up the night. Jack Grealish was fresh off his £100 million then-British record transfer move from Aston Villa but became the first Englishman to score and assist in their Champions League debut since Wayne Rooney for Manchester United against Fenerbahce in September 2004.
All three goals for the Bundesliga side were scored by Christopher Nkunku, who became the first RB Leipzig player to score a hat-trick in the competition, and just the second to net one against Manchester City after Lionel Messi in October 2016.
By the time of the return match, City had already qualified for the knockout stages but that didn’t stop Guardiola from naming a strong line-up for a game that ended up being played in front of no fans due to Covid-19 restrictions.
It didn’t affect the hosts though with strikes from Dominik Szoboszlai and Andre Silva setting up the victory with Riyah Mahrez’s late response being derailed by Kyle Walker’s sending off.
Whilst not fully in what looks set to be a pulsating race for the Bundesliga crown, fifth placed RB Leipzig are just four points off the top of the table, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 2.7% chance of claiming the title. Bayern Munich are still the overwhelming favourites to go on and claim an 11th league trophy in succession, but the 3-0 victory over seventh-placed Wolfsburg does leave our predictive model believing they will finish the season in third.
RB Leipzig have scored in 18 of their 21 Bundesliga games so far this season with only Bayern having been able to achieve the feat in more matches. It’s a similarly rich vein of scoring form they’ve enjoyed in the Champions League at home, having done so in 15 of the 17 they’ve hosted at the Red Bull arena.
Their issue in this first leg tie though, Manchester City have kept a clean sheet in five of their last six away matches in the UCL, including in each of their three group stage games this season. And they are equally as dominate in attack – the 0-0 draw with Borussia Dortmund is the first time they’ve failed to score against a German side, and they’ve never failed to score in consecutive such fixtures in Europe.
But this is a fragile Man City side right now. The highs of triumph over Arsenal in midweek and returning to the top of the Premier League table, being levelled out by a disappointing drawing against Nottingham Forest where the likes of Kevin de Bruyne (seven), Ilkay Gundogan (three) and Erling Haaland (two) peppered their opponent’s goal with 23 shots in total for the result of just one goal.
They might still be our supercomputer favourites to go on and claim a third successive Premier League crown come May – but the probability has dropped from 66.0% coming into the weekend to 52.5% after.
Players to Watch
RB Leipzing: Christopher Nkunku
We’ve already mentioned his scoring exploits last season against Manchester City, so it was a welcome return to the squad for Christopher Nkunku against Wolfsburg as he continues to recover from the knee injury that ruled him out of the 2022 World Cup. And his influence on the team is undeniable.
Since the 2020-21 season, no RB Leipzig player has been directly involved in more UEFA Champions League goals than Nkunku (15 – 11 goals, four assists) whilst also creating more goalscoring chances than any of his teammates (37). And during this season’s group stages, only Vinicius Junior (8.4) had a higher xG sequence involvement from open play than Nkunku (7.5).
Maybe this first leg will come a little too quickly into his recovery to have an as bigger impact as he might like to have in the knockout stage, especially as he could become the first player in the club’s history to score in three consecutive games in the competition. But with his time at the German side seemingly winding down ahead of a potential summer move to Chelsea, fans at the Red Bull Arena will be hoping this isn’t the last time they’ll see him in Champions League action for the club.
Manchester City: Jack Grealish
It could have been easy to pick out Erling Haaland here. The former Borussia Dortmund man has scored six goals in four previous appearances against RB Leipzig, scoring three separate braces for Borussia Dortmund.
Instead, we want to pay attention to Jack Grealish who seems to be producing some of his best form in a Manchester City shirt on the left-hand side of their front three since the World Cup break, leaving his manager full of praise for this seeming improvement.
“The quality was always there but his commitment to take a risk in important decisions is right now making the difference. He has to continue.”Pep Guardiola
Interestingly, prior to this seeming purple patch, it is on the European stage where the Englishman has showcased the best of his talents with the ball at his feet so far. Kingsley Coman (18) is the only player to have created more chances following a carry than Grealish (15) since the start of last season in the Champions League.
RB Leipzig vs Manchester City Prediction
The Opta supercomputer loves to look at a team’s recent form in just the competition they are taking part in when coming up with its prediction. So, despite coming into this round of 16 first leg tie on the back of a disappointing result domestically, our supercomputer is giving Manchester City a 53.9% chance of taking the victory at the Red Bull Arena.
The Cityzens have lost just one of their last 12 matches in the UEFA Champions League (W7 D4), that being last season’s semi-final second leg against Real Madrid. They may have found themselves held to draws away from home in two of the group stage matches (FC Kobenhavn and Borussia Dortmund), but our supercomputer is only giving the draw a 23.6% chance of happening, leaving the Germans victory at 22.5%.
You’ve seen how the Opta supercomputer thinks the match will play out this weekend, but what do you think will happen? Let us know…
How do you see the match going tonight?— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) February 22, 2023
As for overall winner of the UCL this season, the supercomputer is still very high on both Bayern Munich (27.3%) and Manchester City (20.5%) to lift the title – with those two combined almost having as much chance as the other 14 clubs overall. Bayern won their first leg against PSG last week, while Man City have to face Bundesliga side RB Leipzig on Wednesday night.
Napoli are third favourites at 11.6%, just ahead of these two sides, with Real Madrid (7.0%) just ahead of Liverpool (6.2%). Eintracht Frankfurt (1.0%) and Tottenham (1.5%) are the rank outsiders, while Ligue 1 giants PSG are given just a 2.0% chance of winning the 2022-23 UCL after a first-leg defeat to Bayern. Chelsea’s first leg defeat to Borussia Dortmund last week means that they are now also given just a 2.0% chance of winning the UCL this season.
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