RB Leipzig are one step closer to what was seemingly the unthinkable at the start of the season: reaching the Champions League final. Following a night to remember against Atlético Madrid last Thursday, Julian Nagelsmann’s team will face back-to-back-to-back Ligue 1 champions, Paris Saint-Germain, in the semi-finals.
Marcel Sabitzer has proven to be a vital player for Leipzig throughout the 2019/20 season and has been providing Nagelsmann with a mix of an excellent work ethic, magnificent passing, leadership, and a threat in front of goal from the heart of midfield, scoring 16 goals and providing 11 assists in all competitions this campaign. A tally that includes seven goal contributions in eight Champions League matches.
Speaking to UEFA.com ahead of the match on Tuesday, Sabitzer acknowledges the threat the Parisian club imposes with such individual talents as Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, and so forth, but is adamant that Die Roten Bullen isn’t in the last four just to make up the numbers:
“Paris are favourites: with their top players and their team as a whole, that much is obvious. We will need a similar day to the one we had against Atlético to stay in the game. But we are not in the semi-finals to make up the numbers: we want to win this match. We are focused on our performance and we want to prove to ourselves that we can compete with these teams. We won’t only need our feet but our brains too. If we believe, I am convinced we can prevail.”
This season’s adjusted format of playing matches without the presence of fans and being a single-game knockout format could be something that benefits the inexperience of Leipzig, being the club’s first foray into the Champions League knockout stages in its second year in the competition, as the lack of hostility creates a less intimidating experience for the young team. Sabitzer agrees with this:
“The way the competition is being finished off [with single-leg ties] is an advantage for us. So, too, is playing in front of empty seats. We are relatively inexperienced at this stage, and if the atmosphere is like a cauldron it can be intimidating. Other teams have experienced players who have gone through that many times already. Perhaps it’s less us having an advantage as them losing theirs.”