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UEFA Europa League: Real Sociedad vs RB Leipzig Preview

11.02.2022, Sachsen, Leipzig: Fußball: Bundesliga, RB Leipzig – 1. FC Köln, 22. Spieltag, Red Bull Arena. Leipzigs Christopher Nkunku in Aktion gegen Kölns Jonas Hector (r). WICHTIGER HINWEIS: Gemäß den Vorgaben der DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga bzw. des DFB Deutscher Fußball-Bund ist es untersagt, in dem Stadion und/oder vom Spiel angefertigte Fotoaufnahmen in Form von Sequenzbildern und/oder videoähnlichen Fotostrecken zu verwerten bzw. verwerten zu lassen. Foto: Jan Woitas/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Written by Oluwaseun Oyediji

Everything is still to play for in this UEFA Europa League (UEL) play-off tie after the first leg saw Real Sociedad produce a solid display to secure an impressive 2-2 away draw at RB Leipzig.

Real Sociedad

The first leg result could prove a lucky omen as the Spanish side has progressed each time they’ve drawn the first leg away from home in a major European knockout tie (three wins) – albeit the away goals rule has been scrapped this season.

Style of play

Real Sociedad have lined up in either a 4-1-4-1 formation; a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3, and variations of a 4-4-2. In the build-up, either the single-pivot or one of the double pivot drops into the defence to create a back three. The full-backs then push up higher, which allows La Real’s wingers to either drop deep into midfield or position themselves narrowly in the half-space between full-back and center-back.

This tactic is implemented to establish numerical superiority in the central areas of the pitch or in front of the opposition defence.

This numerical superiority in central areas is also done to compel the opposition defensive line to become narrow in their shape, which then leaves space in the wide areas for Sociedad’s full-backs to exploit.

Form

Although their 4-0 defeat in the Basque derby versus rivals Athletic Bilbao at the weekend may have crushed confidence since that first leg result.

That derby defeat continued a worrying trend of low-scoring for Sociedad who have now kept off the scoresheet in four of their last six competitive outings.

With Leipzig entering in a free-scoring form that’ll be a major concern, especially as Sociedad’s two goals in the first leg came from just three shots – only the third time a side has ever managed that feat since the UEL began in 2009.

Players to watch

Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal notched in the first leg, taking his tally to 14 competitive goals for the season – ten arrived after the 60th minute.

RB Leipzig

Leipzig battered Hertha Berlin 6-1 in Bundesliga weekend action as they continue to flex their muscles after a relatively poor start to the season.

Style of play
Domenico Tedesco has gone back to basics with a three at the back formation that resembles Julian Nagelsmann‘s style of play. This was one of Marsch’s greatest issues, as the American overhauled too much of Leipzig’s system and style in implementing a lackluster 4-2-3-1. Tedesco’s return to a three has seen the team leap back into top-four contention, with players better able to perform to their best in roles that make sense for their skillsets. Tedesco has also shown fluidity and some fluctuation in formation, chopping between a 3-4-1-2 and a 3-4-2-1.

Form

Now sat fourth in the Bundesliga, Domenico Tedesco’s side will arrive in northern Spain in a positive mood after losing just one of their prior eight competitive outings (six wins and a draw).

That streak has seen Leipzig notch two or more goals on each outing, whilst they’ve also managed the same feat in six of their seven European outings so far this campaign.

The German outfit has lost three of their last four UEL away fixtures (excluding qualifiers) though, which could prove a psychological lock (a win).

Players to watch

Starman Christopher Nkunku netted again for Leipzig over the weekend (22 goals across all competition), and he has eight goals in seven European matches this campaign after also scoring in the first leg.

Head-to-head

Real Sociedad has won just one of its last five games, losing two and drawing the other two games.

RB Leipzig has won three of its last five games, losing one and drawing one.

Verdict:

RB Leipzig to win and qualify for the Round of 16


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