RB Leipzig v Real Sociedad: High-class clash could be tight

The Europa League's knockout stage begins with the playoff round, and Kevin Hatchard believes goals may be at a premium.

Red Bulls are proving tough to slow down

RB Leipzig gave the Bundesliga a reminder of their collective and individual quality on Friday night, as they swept aside an FC Köln team that had been ahead of them in the table. Christopher Nkunku curled in an unstoppable free-kick to open the scoring, his 19th competitive goal of the season and his 11th in the Bundesliga. Indeed, the electrifying Frenchman has scored as many goals in his last 22 Bundesliga matches as he got in the previous 60.

Dani Olmo wanted to take that free-kick, only to be waved away. He made up for that disappointment after the break, as he lashed in a long-range drive to record his first league goal of an injury-wrecked campaign. The Spaniard's return gives Die Roten Bullen even more fluidity and flexibility in their forward line.

Leipzig have now won seven of their last nine competitive home games, and coach Domenico Tedesco has helped them into the top four since taking over from Jesse Marsch, whose methods were deemed too basic by the players after the nuance and imagination of Julian Nagelsmann.

Given that the team is in the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup and that they have every chance of going deep in this competition, it could be a glorious finale for a club that has only existed since 2009.

There is strength in depth in every area of the squad. Dominik Szoboszlai, Yussuf Poulsen, Emil Forsberg, Tyler Adams, Kevin Kampl, Nordi Mukiele and Mohamed Simakan were all on a ridiculously strong bench on Friday night, so there's no reason why Tedesco can't field a strong starting XI for this one.

Basques can still salvage faltering campaign

For quite a while this season, with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid faltering, it seemed as though Real Sociedad could launch a shock assault on the La Liga crown. However, perhaps understandably, San Sebastian's finest haven't been able to last the pace. Imanol Alguacil's side has slipped to sixth in the standings, 16 points off top spot, and they were hammered 4-0 at home by Real Betis recently in the Copa del Rey.

La Real's performances in the Europa League were mixed, especially away from home. They lost away to group winners Monaco and were held to a 2-2 draw at PSV, but they did at least secure progress with a Matchday Six, winner-takes-all showdown against the Dutch giants.

The blowout against Betis recently was something of a surprise, as it's the only game in the last six in which Real Sociedad have conceded a goal. They have only leaked 21 goals in 23 league games, and in all competitions they have racked up 18 clean sheets.

Igor Zubeldia is back after missing the weekend's game because of suspension, but Martin Zubimendi is banned.

Hosts' price to win is probably about right

RB Leipzig are the 1.94 favourites here in the Match Odds market, and they have the depth to be able to field a strong starting XI. Their home form since the cerebral and talented Tedesco took charge has been excellent, and players like Portuguese centre-forward Andre Silva have been revitalised. At a shade short of evens, I still think Leipzig are attractively priced.

Defences on top

I'm surprised to see No in the Both Teams To Score market trading at a hefty 2.3 here. That bet has landed in each of Real Sociedad's last six matches, and 14 of their last 18. There'll be an element of respect and caution here, and Leipzig have racked up three clean sheets in their last five matches. It should really be four in six, but they switched off right at the end of the win over Köln, conceding a sloppy goal from a set play.

On that basis, I wouldn't put you off backing Under 2.5 Goals here either at 2.1.

If you want to get creative and use the Sportsbook's Bet Builder, you could back Leipzig/Draw Double Chance, Under 3.5 Goals and Christopher Nkunku to have a shot on target at 2.64.

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