Sports Mole previews Thursday’s Europa League clash between Real Sociedad and RB Leipzig, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
It was a tale of two penalties at the Red Bull Arena in the first leg last Thursday – one that was correctly awarded to Sociedad and one that the Spanish side would have felt aggrieved to see go against them in a four-goal stalemate.
After a closely-fought first half saw Le Normand and star man Nkunku net for their respective sides, Oyarzabal restored Sociedad’s lead from 12 yards after Josko Gvardiol‘s handball, but Leipzig rescued a draw through Forsberg’s spot kick in the 82nd minute after a perceived foul on Dominik Szoboszlai.
Replays showed that the Hungarian attacker was arguably fortunate to have been awarded the penalty, and Imanol Alguacil‘s mood would not have improved at the weekend, as Sociedad were embarrassed in a 4-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in La Liga.
It is now just one win in six for this often shot-shy Sociedad outfit – who have failed to find the back of the net in four of those encounters – and the Spanish outfit have never made it as far as the last-16 of the Europa League in its current format.
One silver lining for Alguacil is that his side have managed to keep four clean sheets in their last five encounters on home soil and went through the group stage unbeaten at home, but if their weekend performance is anything to go by, Leipzig could enjoy a field day.
Fans, journalists, teammates and coaches alike are running out of superlatives to describe Leipzig’s star man Nkunku, who followed up his impressive showing in the first leg with another goal-laden display against Hertha Berlin.
The former Paris Saint-Germain starlet contributed two goals to his side’s 6-1 thumping of Tayfun Korkut‘s men – his 21st and 22nd of the season in all competitions – as Leipzig continue their fantastic scoring streak since the turn of the year.
Domenico Tedesco‘s side have now managed to score at least two goals in all of their eight games in 2022 – winning six of them – but their penchant for goals was not enough to earn them a spot in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
However, produce performances like they did against Hertha Berlin and Leipzig could be one of the dark horses for the Europa League crown this season, with their best showing so far being a quarter-final appearance in the 2017-18 season.
A record of just two wins from their nine away games in the Europa League so far is not exactly positive, but Leipzig have not failed to score away from home in any competition since November and will arguably boast the favourites tag on Spanish turf this week.
Real Sociedad Europa League form:
Real Sociedad form (all competitions):
RB Leipzig Europa League form:
RB Leipzig form (all competitions):
Merino is not thought to have suffered any lasting damage but could take his place on the sidelines with Ander Barrenetxea, Nacho Monreal and Diego Rico, who suffered a hamstring injury in the first leg.
Alexander Isak and Adnan Januzaj were both absent from team training on Monday and are unlikely to be involved either, so Leipzig loanee Alexander Sorloth will shoulder the goalscoring burden with Oyarzabal again.
Real Sociedad possible starting lineup:
Remiro; Zaldua, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Elustondo, Munoz; Portu, Zubimendi, Silva, Oyarzabal; Sorloth
RB Leipzig possible starting lineup:
Gulacsi; Klostermann, Simakan, Gvardiol; Mukiele, Laimer, Haidara, Henrichs; Nkunku, Olmo; Poulsen
We say: Real Sociedad 1-3 RB Leipzig (Leipzig win 5-3 on aggregate)
Leipzig have been in free-scoring mode all season long, and that is unlikely to change against a Sociedad side whom they already have goalscoring experience against and who were humbled by Athletic at the weekend.
With nearly a fully-fit squad to select from and morale at its highest point, we cannot see any other result than a safe passage into the last-16 stage for Tedesco’s side.