RB Leipzig in focus as Rangers prepare for Europa League semi-final

Domenico Tedesco’s side will look to Christopher Nkunku for their goals.

By Press Association Published: 27 April 2022 - 8.00am

Rangers take on RB Leipzig in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final at the Red Bull Arena on Thursday night.

The Bundesliga outfit reached the last four by beating Serie A side Atalanta on a 3-1 aggregate win.

Here, PA media looks at the club who stand between Rangers and their first European final in 14 years.

Boss

Domenico Tedesco
Domenico Tedesco is the man in charge (Martin Rickett/PA)

Domenico Tedesco took over the head coach position at Leipzig in December 2021.

The 36-year-old Italian, who moved to Germany aged two, began his managerial career at German lower league side FC Erzgebirge Aue.

He took over at Schalke in 2017 and guided them to a second-placed finish in the league in his first season in charge of the club but was sacked after their 7-0 thrashing by Manchester City in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie in March 2019.

Tedesco became boss of Spartak Moscow in October 2019 and his assistant was former Celtic defender Andreas Hinkel, who followed him to Leipzig.

Hinkel looks forward to returning to Glasgow and was quoted in the Daily Record recently as saying: “The atmosphere in the Ibrox Stadium will be special. I’ve been very fortunate to experience Glasgow derbies as a player.

“For me, the Old Firm is one of the greatest games ever. The mood was indescribable every time.”

Squad

Christopher Nkunku scores against Manchester City
Christopher Nkunku will be the main threat to Rangers (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Leipzig will not be at full strength for the first leg against Rangers which means Tedesco will have to reshuffle his squad.

Experienced Slovenia midfielder Kevin Kampl, German-born Hungary defender Willi Orban and 21-year-old French defender Mohamed Simakan are all suspended after picking up two yellow cards in previous games.

But there will still be plenty to concern Rangers. The main danger man is 24-year-old France international Christopher Nkunku – the Bundesliga’s player of the month for March – who struck twice in the second leg when the German side overcame Atalanta 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

Form

When Leipzig appointed Tedesco in November following the departure of current Leeds boss Jesse Marsch, the club were in the bottom half of the Bundesliga.

But they are now in the top four behind Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen, trailing the latter by one point after 31 fixtures.

They go into the game, however, on the back of a surprise defeat.

After beating Union Berlin 2-1 at home in the German Cup semi-final last midweek, they lost by the same score at home in their Bundesliga meeting on Saturday with the visitors netting twice late in the game to come from a goal down.

Pedigree

Leipzig reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in 2019-20 but, having only existed in their current guise since 2009, they do not have a storied history.

They were runners-up in the Bundesliga in 2017 and 2018 and also in the German Cup in 2019 and 2021.

In the Champions League semi-final two years ago, they lost 3-0 to Paris St Germain in the semi-final at the Estadio da Luz in Portugal.

Leipzig are big favourites to beat Rangers in the first leg but the Ibrox men will look to be still in the tie for the return game in Govan next week.

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