Leipzig vs Zorya – Thursday, August 29, 17:30 BST/18:30 CEST – RB Arena, Leipzig, Germany
It could have been a perfect start for Leipzig into the new Bundesliga season. Within 30 seconds Jean-Kévin Augustin had brought Leipzig ahead against Borussia Dortmund on Sunday. Leipzig seemed mobile better in-tune showing that they had already played six competitive matches this season.
After failing to put the game away, however, Dortmund slowly found their way back into the match and then simply overpowered Leipzig. In the end, Dortmund had won the game 4-1 in a game that could have gone the other way had Leipzig taken their chances better.
It was, in fact, a similar story to Leipzig’s 0-0 draw in the first leg against Zorya Luhansk last Thursday. Die Roten Bullen dominated that game and after a red card to Bogdan Lednev in the 17′ minute had chance after chance to walk away with a positive result.
“We have to take our chances better,” head coach and sporting director Ralf Rangnick explained post-game. A mantra that could be true for both the games.
Another problem for Leipzig has been squad depth. “We want to have two players for every position”, Rangnick explained a few weeks back. But Leipzig have failed to sign Sebastian Rudy from Bayern and are still in talks with Everton to bring in Ademola Lookman.
As a result, the squad remains threadbare at best. Currently, Leipzig lack the depth to “dance at three weddings” as Rangnick described it. With this in mind, it could almost be beneficial for Leipzig to drop out of the Europa League to not endanger results in the Bundesliga. But regarding Financial Fair Play and UEFA co-efficient points, Leipzig need a good showing in Europe to grow as a club.
Zorya, in the meantime, hold a small advantage going into the second leg. Furthermore, the Ukrainians looked good on the counter-attack and could be good for a goal or two if they show more composure in the away leg.
The 1971 Soviet Vysshaya Liga champions, however, have been struggling in the Ukrainian Premier League this season. On Sunday Zorya lost 2-0 to newly promoted Desna. Traditionally, the third largest club in Ukraine that result means that the club, which has been build into a solid side by head coach Yuri Vernydub, has dropped to fifth place in the standings.
Zorya very much appears to be a side in flux at the moment. At the same time cup matches often get the best out of teams even when they struggle throughout regular league play. After all, a draw could be enough for Zorya to advance but if Leipzig manage to play as they did in the first 30 minutes against Dortmund, there is no doubt that die Roten Bullen will advance to group stage at the expense of Zorya.
Leipzig vs Zorya – Players to look out for:
Timo Werner #11 – RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig will need goals on Thursday against Zorya. As a result, expect Timo Werner, who was not in the starting eleven against Borussia Dortmund on Sunday, to get to start this match. The 22-year-old national team striker has struggled with fitness since returning from the World Cup but showed on Sunday that his fitness is improving. One of the best strikers in the Bundesliga Werner could, therefore, become the key to unlock Zorya on Thursday at the RB Arena in Leipzig.
Oleksandr Karavaev #20 – Zorya Luhansk
Oleksandr Karavaev is Zorya’s best player. Developed by Shakhtar Donetsk the 26-year-old midfielder was moved back and forward between Shakhtar and Zorya earlier on in his career. This was a time in which Zorya were a farm team of Shakhtar Donetsk. Then, during the 2016/17 season, Karavaev had an unsuccessful stint in Turkey with Fenerbahçe. Returning to Ukraine in the summer of 2017 Karavaev is Zorya’s leader on the pitch.
Leipzig vs Zorya – Match Stats
- The first leg was the first time Zorya and RB Leipzig met in a competitive fixture.
- Zorya faced Leipzig’s German rival Hertha in the group stage of the Europa League last season.
- The Ukrainians beat Hertha at home 2-1 but lost 2-0 in Berlin.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: RB Leipzig vs Zorya – 3-1
RB Leipzig vs Zorya – Lineups
Mvogo – Klostermann, Konaté, Orban, Laimer – Laimer, Ilsanker – Forsberg, Bruma – Werner, Matheus Cunha
Head Coach: Ralf Rangnick
Luis Felipe – Cheberko, Svatok, Tymchyk, Vernydub – Gordienko, Kharatin, Karavaev – Khomchenovsky, Ratão, Lunyov
Head Coach: Yuri Vernydub
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.