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Champions League recap: Leipzig's licence to thrill

The German side's third season in Europe has been a cracker.

Marcel Sabitzer may be the man to watch at Leipzig
Marcel Sabitzer may be the man to watch at Leipzig @Getty Images

Unpredictable and lightning-quick going forward, Leipzig have been making light of their lack of European experience this season.

Rule changes for this season

Season so far

Highlights: Zenit 0-2 Leipzig
Highlights: Zenit 0-2 Leipzig

Form guide: W5 D2 L1 F14 A8
Top scorer: Emil Forsberg, Marcel Sabitzer, Timo Werner (4)

Their campaign in ten words: Breaking new ground and challenging opponents with their formation changes.

Group G winners
Benfica 1-2 Leipzig (Seferović 84; Werner 69 78)
Leipzig 0-2 Lyon (Depay 11, Terrier 65)
Leipzig 2-1 Zenit (Laimer 49, Sabitzer 59; Rakits'kyy 25)
Zenit 0-2 Leipzig (Demme 45+5, Sabitzer 63)
Leipzig 2-2 Benfica (Forsberg 90pen 90'+6; Pizzi 20, Carlos Vinícius 59)
Lyon 2-2 Leipzig (Aouar 50, Depay 82; Forsberg 9pen, Werner 33pen)

Round of 16

First leg (19 February): Tottenham 0-1 Leipzig (Werner 58pen)
Second leg (10 March): Leipzig 3-0 Tottenham (Sabitzer 10 21, Forsberg 87)
(4-0 agg.) 

Highlights: Leipzig 3-0 Tottenham
Highlights: Leipzig 3-0 Tottenham

Focused and merciless, Leipzig put in two dynamic performances to speed past opponents who got to the final last season. They have no reason to feel cowed as they make their last-eight debut.

Expert view: James Thorogood, UEFA.com Leipzig reporter

Much like Ajax last season, Leipzig have been a surprise package after catching the eye with an attractive brand of football to book their place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League for the first time. If topping Group G wasn't enough to be taken seriously, the 4-0 aggregate win over last year's beaten finalists Tottenham in the round of 16 was. Leipzig's performances underlined the extent of their progress in head coach Julian Nagelsmann's debut season and it will take an excellent team to derail this young and hungry side.

Who's in charge?

A centre-back whose career was ruined by injury, Julian Nagelsmann turned 33 in July but is a seasoned Champions League coach. Hired by Leipzig in summer 2019, he previously made it to the 2018/19 group stage with Hoffenheim.

Key quote: "We're a young team in the knockout stages for the very first time. The most incredible thing is that the team has focused on playing the Leipzig style and in the next round it's important that doesn't change."

Tactical approach

Julian Nagelsmann likes to silence his opponents
Julian Nagelsmann likes to silence his opponentsAFP via Getty Images

Aggressive and not shy to get physical off the ball, Leipzig like to vary the rhythm when in possession. Nothing is set in stone, however, because coach Nagelsmann likes to make several tactical adjustments during the course of a match. Pace in the final third is a constant, though.

Star player: Marcel Sabitzer

The 26-year-old Austrian midfielder has matched striker Timo Werner goal-for-goal in this season's UEFA Champions League, and will welcome the added responsibility and spotlight in Lisbon.