Everything that you need to know ahead of Tuesday’s match:
(1) Manchester United never make it easy. After seizing control of Group H with stunning victories in their first two matches, uninspired play in Istanbul and a Neymar masterclass at Old Trafford have pushed their Champions League dreams to the brink. On the bright side, the Reds travel to the Red Bull Arena needing just one point to advance.
(2) Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, and RB Leipzig all sit on nine points heading into the group stage finale. Since head-to-head records take priority over goal difference as the two-way tiebreaker, PSG are in the clear as long as they don’t stumble against Basaksehir. RB Leipzig, on the other hand, face longer odds. They must win on Tuesday, as that 5-0 implosion in Manchester wrecked their head-to-head chances against the Reds. In the unlikely event that both matches end in draws — putting all three sides on ten points — goal difference would then be called upon to settle it, meaning that Manchester United and PSG would advance.
(3) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no choice but to name his strongest side in Germany, robbing him of a chance to rest some weary regulars ahead of the Manchester derby. Unfortunately, Pep Guardiola has no such problem. Manchester City already locked up top spot in their group, leaving Pep free to rotate away to his heart’s content against Marseille.
(4) Fred will miss Tuesday’s decider after getting sent off against PSG last week. In the first half, he somehow dodged a straight red for leaning his head into Leandro Paredes — but the miraculous let-off did nothing to temper his on-the-edge playing style. And, after the break, the football gods finally caught up with him. Fred’s second yellow may have been a little soft, but c’mon this was inevitable. A brainless decision from Ole to leave him on.
(5) On the RB Leipzig side, Dayot Upamecano will be a key absence. Suspended one match for racking up too many yellow cards, the pacy 22-year-old center back is one of the few Leipzig defenders capable of keeping up with Marcus Rashford or Mason Greenwood on the break. That heaps a lot of added pressure on Ibrahima Konate’s shoulders to slow down Manchester United’s frontline. Interestingly, there are lots of rumors that Liverpool may bid for Upamecano (or Konate, for that matter) in January to fill the VVD-sized hole in their defense. If Leipzig lose on Tuesday — a possibility enhanced without their star center back — bowing out of the Champions League could make a winter sale more likely.
(6) Before kickoff at West Ham, Solskjaer expressed hope that he could give Bruno Fernandes the whole day off. Uhh, not quite. After witnessing one of the poorest Manchester United first-half performances in recent memory, the boss brought Fernandes and Marcus Rashford off the bench at the break. The Reds rallied to a 3-1 win, but Solskjaer missed out on the chance to fully rest his top players before the big trip to Germany.
(7) Not to mention a few crucial injuries picked up at the London Stadium. Solskjaer on the two attackers who suffered knocks:
We lost [Anthony Martial] and Edinson [Cavani]. Hopefully, [they’re] not too bad, but they couldn’t carry on. They’re not bad ones, hopefully. We’ll do scans on them and hopefully they’ll be available soon. There’s a game already on Tuesday. It’ll probably be [like this] this year. Some games we have to do without players and I’m glad we’ve got the substitutions we have.
(8) RB Leipzig stayed alive in Group H with a rollercoaster win over Basaksehir last week. The Germans jumped out to an early lead — courtesy of a Marcel Sabitzer shot that deflected off Yussuf Poulsen — and spent most of the match with a comfortable lead after further goals from Nordi Mukiele and Dani Olmo. But the Turkish champs never stopped and managed to knot the score up 3-3 in the final minutes. It took a stoppage time winner from Alexander Sorloth, his first goal for the club, to finally seal it for Leipzig.
(9) Star watch: Angelino, the diminutive left-sided “defender” on loan from Manchester City, looks like the real deal. Playing either left wing-back or left back, depending on the formation, Angelino bombs down the touchline to create width — and has even shown a nose for goal this season. He is RB Leipzig’s top scorer (6 goals), excelling under Julian Nagelsmann with license to push forward at almost every opportunity. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will have his hands full on Tuesday.
Superb assist from Angeliño to give Leipzig the lead vs Bayern— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) December 5, 2020
He now has 10 goals/assists in 15 Bundesliga & Champions League starts this season.
Has become one of the key mechanisms by which Julian Nagelsmann has restructured his attack without Timo Werner. pic.twitter.com/CYiuhUPEMb
(10) Nagelsmann’s side did not cope well with Manchester United’s counterattack in the first matchup. A somewhat tight 1-0 game at the half was broken wide open as the Reds overwhelmed their German visitors with speed and dangerous runs into space. On the basis of that match — and their unconvincing win over Basaksehir — RB Leipzig look ripe for the taking. But, when Leipzig’s aggressive counter-pressing works, they’re capable of hitting some pretty lofty heights. Like reaching the semifinals of the Champions League last season.
(11) On Saturday, RB Leipzig went toe-to-toe with Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. With top spot in the league table on the line, both sides were well up for it and delivered a back-and-forth affair that delighted the neutrals. All in all, the 3-3 stalemate feels a fair result.