RB Leipzig v Tottenham: Back Mourinho's men to dig in
The market expects RB Leipzig to sweep Tottenham aside and reach the quarter-finals, but Kevin Hatchard believes Spurs are still in the tie.
RB Leipzig v Tottenham Tuesday 10 March, 20:00 Live on BT Sport
Leipzig a work in progress
While RB Leipzig's 1-0 win at White Hart Lane was an indication that this is a team that has made a significant step forward under Julian Nagelsmann, Die Roten Bullen have shown in the Bundesliga that they still have a long way to go to reach the standards set by Bayern Munich.
Saturday's goalless draw at Wolfsburg was a classic example. Nagelsmann made some bold calls (Christopher Nkunku was wasted at right-wing back, while Yussuf Poulsen struggled on his first league start of 2020) and his team fell foul of an outstanding defensive display from Die Wolfe. Leipzig have now dropped points in five of their last seven league games, and they are five points adrift of Bayern in the title race. As Nagelsmann was keen to point out in his post-match interviews, he's more concerned with making sure of a top-four finish than catching the champions.
That's not to say that the picture is an entirely gloomy one. Leipzig only need a draw against Tottenham to progress, and they haven't lost to any of their big domestic rivals this season. They drew twice with Bayern, twice with Leverkusen, they fought back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to draw 3-3 at Borussia Dortmund, and they took four points off Borussia Monchengladbach. RBL have only lost once at home all season.
First leg match-winner Timo Werner was only used as a sub against Wolfsburg, as he has been struggling with a muscle problem. He is expected to start Leipzig's biggest match of the season. Dayot Upamecano missed the first leg through suspension, but is back and will likely provide the centre-piece of a three-man defence.
Was Mourinho 2.0 a façade?
When a smiling, positive Jose Mourinho arrived at Tottenham, talking gleefully about the potential of the squad, it seemed he might be able to shake off the habits that tarnished his time at Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United. Yes, trophies were won, but a cloud of negativity hovered above.
Some of those old tropes are back. Injuries to Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son have given Mourinho the chance to manage expectation. His public hammering of midfielder Tanguy Ndombele is rooted in truth (the Frenchman has been a big disappointment so far) but one wonders whether such treatment will fracture a squad that already seems jaded.
Spurs have lost three of their last four games inside 90 minutes, and they crashed out of the FA Cup on penalties after a limp display against Norwich City. These haven't necessarily been unlucky results either - Spurs have produced some extraordinarily low Expected Goals figures (2.53 xG behind Burnley on Saturday and an overall figure of 0.33 v Chelsea) and in some games fans have been frustrated by Mourinho's passive and defensive set-up.
Dele Alli played as a makeshift striker at Burnley, and scored the equaliser from the penalty spot. He could spearhead the attack again, with support from Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura.
Leipzig a touch too short for their biggest test
RB Leipzig impressed in the first leg, but they aren't in great form, and in games against top sides (Spurs are still a talented team) they simply haven't been winning. Mourinho will unapologetically look to keep things tight, and hope that his quick players in attack can do damage in transition. Werner isn't fully fit, and has been a peripheral figure in Leipzig's last two league games.
I can't get excited about backing Leipzig at 1.60. A draw would suit their purposes, and it's worth noting that Spurs haven't lost a game by more than a goal since December. There'll understandably be some anxiety in the Leipzig camp (this is arguably the biggest game in the club's short history) and they have been slow starters in big matches.
I'll back Tottenham +1.0 on the Asian Handicap here at 1.97, so we only lose if Spurs lose the game by two goals or more, and we win if Tottenham win or the game is drawn.
Don't be surprised if goals are scarce
There was only one goal in the first leg, and if you look at Leipzig's games against title rivals, a big chunk of them have featured fewer than three goals. They drew 1-1 and 0-0 with Bayern, 1-1 twice with Leverkusen, and four of their last six games overall have seen an Under 2.5 Goals bet land.
Of course, with finely-balanced European ties, an early Leipzig goal could open things right up, with Spurs suddenly having to chase the game, but I do think Under 2.5 Goals is an attractive price here at 2.28.
Leipzig could make another slow start
Leipzig are 2.14 to be in front at half-time, and I'm not convinced they will be. The first leg was 0-0 at the break, and Leipzig have led at half time in just two of their last 12 matches in all competitions.
You could lay Leipzig at 2.14 in the Half Time market, or use the Sportsbook and find a way of dutching the odds of Draw 2.30 and Spurs to be in front 5.50 at half time.