Friday, March 1, 2024
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RB Leipzig v Real Madrid: Champions League last 16, first leg – live

Key events

11 min Hilary from Neighbours Kevin de Bruyne has given City the lead in Copenhagen.

9 min Lovely from Leipzig sounds like an entrant on Blind Date but is in fact an observation on a football match. Simakan slides infield, Olmo releases Sesko … and Ludin smothers his low shot! That was a decent opportunity, and Leipzig have the measure of Madrid’s defence.

9 min Madrid win a corner down the right and Kross delivers it well, Tchouameni’s header floating wide but kicked off the line. So the cross comes back, this time Camavinga turning a shot goalwards that Gulasci saves. This is building nicely.

8 min Thinking more about Bellingham, who are the other midfielders who are comparable? They’ve got to be all-rounders, so I’m thinking Matthaus, Keane, Ince and Souness, Bellingham having the more skill the others control.

7 min Bit of possession from Madrid, Rodrygo wriggling a bit of space outside the box, right of centre, drilling a shot that Gulasci saves easily enough.

6 min Leipzig have started really well, pressing high – Madrid’s are missing various defenders, so are struggling to build from the back.

4 min WHAT A CHANCE FOR LEIPZIG! Simon plays a one-two off Sesko, who can’t bundle through, so when the ball comes back to the little schemer, he wedges a pass over the top and Sesko has time to let it drop! But instead he makes like Daniel Larusso, and Lunin saves easily.

2 min Carvajal and Tchouameni get into trouble, then when the corner they concede arrives at Henrichs on the edge, he shoots, the ball rears up and Sesko heads home … but the flag goes up for offside, a man stood behind the keeper.

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1 min Madrid sit off Leipzig’s defenders, looking to shut off passing angles, and conversely when the ball goes to Lunin, Olmo lanks right up into his grille immediately.

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1 min And away we go!

It’s been a while, but … play the music. Then get Ghetts, Smallgod, Goldie and Scorpion Kings each to remix it.

…and here they come!

Our teams are tunnelled…

Kroos has, of course, had an amazing career – he did very well that Louis van Gaal decided Ander Herrera was better – but the perfection of this might be my favourite thing of his.

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Vinicius was brilliant at the weekend, dribbling past Yan Couto more than any La Liga player has ever been dribbled around and consoling him at full-time like when Ronnie O’Sullivan did Ding Junhui, his adversary traumatised by his brilliance.

Madrid, meanwhile, will looks to pass it around Leipzig in midfield, with Rodrgyo running in behind and Vinicius looking to get on the ball running towards goal.

So where is the game? Leipzig will fancy their two strikers, Openda and Sesko – who’ve scored in four and three straight games respectively – to cause Tchouameni trouble, and I daresay Nacho is also more comfortable playing 2v1 not 2v2. So I reckon Simakan and Raum will be getting high and wide, with Simons looking to slip passes down the sides.

Bellingham will be out for two weeks. I imagine Madrid will be fine, and he’ll be well off for the break.

Kevin de Bruyne has some kind of wedge haircut. I’ve not seen one of those since Hilary in Neighbours.

And I say that as a compliment. I remember hearing an interview with him when he was picked for England and was asked about being around whoever. He said yeah, but I’m pretty good myself – a line that reminded me of Wayne Rooney, who realised at 14 that he was the best player at Everton.

I wonder, though, if Bellingham will now spend the entirety of his career in La Liga. Sadly, it seems like in terms of quality, the Premier League is going away from the rest, and given the kind of character he is, surely he’ll want a bit of home-country adulation at some point.

I can’t lie, I was looking forward to watching Bellingham tonight. He might be the closest thing I’ve seen to Bryan Robson since Bryan Robson, and I can’t think of praise higher than that.

I’m enjoying Rio Ferdinand’s I’m listening and thinking dead hard interview face – though it’s a way to go to compare to that of Mike Goldberg, former UFC play-by-play commentator.

Afternoon uncontrollable mirth:

Also tonight…

In an ominous show of strength, Madrid battered the Costs del Man City 4-0 at the weekend. But Jude Bellingham hurt himself in the process, so his spot goes to Brahim Diaz.

Leipzig make one change to the team that drew 2-2 at Augsburg, Kampl dropping out and Simakan coming in. That’ll either mean an extra centre-back or Henrichs in midfield.

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Tonight’s teams

Leipzig: (4-2-2-2): Gulasci; Simakan, Klostermann, Orban, Raum; Schlager, Henrichs; Olmo, Simons; Sesko, Openda. Subs: Blaswich, Zingerle, Lenz, Bitshiabu, Elmas, Haidara, Poulsen, Seiwald, Baumgartner, Lukeba, Jatta, Kampl.

Real Madrid (4-4-2): Lunin; Carvajal, Nacho, Tchouameni, Mendy; Valverde, Kroos, Camavinga, Diaz; Rodrygo, Vinicius. Subs: Arrizabalaga, Gonzalez, Modric, Joselu, Lucas Vasquaz, Ceballos, Fran Garcia, Arda Güler, Mario Martín, Paz, Alvaro Carillo, Ramón.


Football teaches us all sorts of things – capital cities and pettiness, say, or advanced geopolitics and basic shilling. Or that when it comes to the European Cup and Champions League, you can’t ever rule out Real Madrid.

But can they turn la decimocuarta into la decimoquinta – add fluency in foreign to the list – to salve the pain of what happened last season? And by what happened last season, I mean the Madre de Dios of all semi-final beatings, Manchester City administering a going-over for the age.

Madrid, of course, did what Madrid do: they signed Judfredo di Stefellingham, the club that can’t help knowing how good is perfect for a player who can’t help knowing how good he is, and the pair have taken to each other exactly as we’d assumed they would.

Nor is that it. Rodrygo and Vinicius are improving, Camavinga is growing, Kroos and Modric are more effective now not deployed together; there is the sense that something is building.

If it seems unlikely a side with all that going on loses over two legs to the fifth-best team in Germany, that’s because it is. But football also teaches us that football isn’t like that, and an outfit boasting Dani Olmo, Xavi Simons, Loïs Openda and Benjamin Sesko can give aggro to anyone. So pour yourself a nice cold Gazprom, kick back, and enjoy what should be a decent evening’s soccer.

Kick-off: 9pm local, 8pm GMT

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