Tottenham vs RB Leipzig
Tottenham resumed their 2019/20 Champions League campaign on Wednesday evening.
The north London outfit made it to last year’s final, and the Spurs faithful will no doubt be hoping to achieve a similar feat under decorated boss Jose Mourinho.
However, Tottenham’s last-16 opponents are high-flying German outfit RB Leipzig.
Leipzig have a youthful, in-form squad with a similarly young and exciting manager, Julian Nagelsmann.
The 32-year-old boss has got Leipzig playing some eye-catching football that has resulted in a fairly fierce Bundesliga title race.
The German side will have been fully focused on European glory on Wednesday, though, as they looked to see off an injury-stricken Spurs side.
As well as having their top centre-forward, Harry Kane, out of action, Heung-min Son, who is arguably the Lilywhites’ second-biggest goalscoring threat, is now facing a spell on the sidelines after sustaining a fracture to his right arm vs Aston Villa this past weekend.
With Son and Kane out, Mourinho looked to Dele Alli, Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn to provide the goals on Wednesday.
Tottenham XI: Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies, Winks, Gedson, Lo Celso, Dele, Bergwijn, Lucas
Leipzig XI: Gulacsi, Angelino, Sabitzer, Werner, Klostermann, Nkunku, Schick, Muikele, Halstenberg, Ampadu, Laimer.
Leipzig, despite being away, started with their usual high tempo, getting a shot off inside 30 seconds.
Timo Werner and Angelino then had two decent chances for the Germans with just over a minute gone.
Spurs eventually managed their first effort on goal after seven minutes, when Giovani Lo Celso played a cute through ball to Bergwijn, who forced a save out of Gulacsi.
But despite the half-decent chance from the Dutchman, Mourinho’s side continued to struggle and had difficulty dealing with Leipzig’s high pressing and fast-paced build-up.
Spurs would spend the majority of the first 30 minutes pinned in their own half, as Leipzig knocked the ball around, trying to find an opening.
The home side did enjoy a few more opportunities as the first 45 progressed, with Lo Celso comfortably Spurs’ brightest player.
But Tottenham were sat far too deep for the majority of the first 45.
Granted, Spurs are missing some big players, and their defence isn’t exactly the sturdiest, which is perhaps why Mourinho had his side dropping back and playing like the away side.
But the Portuguese tactician must have surely been aware that if Spurs play like that over two legs against Leipzig, they are likely to lose, because even with Tottenham’s two banks of four sat so far back, Leipzig still managed to carve out a number of decent opportunities before the break.
Werner and Angelino were particularly troublesome for Tottenham down the left-hand side.
And it did appear as though Mourinho had told his team to push higher up the pitch during the break.
After a brief disruption to the beginning of the second-half due to some protesting Leipzig fans, Spurs began to find their feet and started the second period slightly brighter.
Spurs’ bright start was undone in the 55th minute, though, when a recently-returned Ben Davies gave away a penalty.
Werner then stepped up to fire the German outfit into the lead with 57 minutes on the clock.
Mourinho responded to going 1-0 down by making a double sub in the 65th minute. Alli and Gedson Fernandes were taken off for Tanguy Ndombele and Erik Lamela.
That double change looked to spark a shift in momentum, with Tottenham turning into the aggressor.
Lo Celso came extremely close to equalising for Spurs, but Leipzig’s keeper managed to tip the Argentine’s free-kick onto the post.
The Lilywhites continued to carve out a smattering of chances, whilst also limiting Leipzig’s attacking threat.
But despite their positive end to the game, the final whistle still blew with the score at 1-0.
Tottenham now have it all to do at the Red Bull Arena in March.
Lo Celso shines
Whilst Spurs making it past the CL round of 16 this term now looks pretty unlikely, there were a handful of positives for them on Wednesday.
The main one was the performance of Lo Celso. Even in the first 45, when Spurs were penned back in their half, the midfielder was a glimmer of hope, driving forward, taking on players and also doing a solid job of winning the ball back.
Lo Celso was also very influential in the closing stages of the Leipzig clash, even if Spurs were unable to find an equaliser.
The former Real Betis man had a pretty slow start to life in London, which wasn’t helped by some injury woes.
But in the last few weeks, Lo Celso has shown that he can become a pivotal member of Tottenham’s midfield for years to come.