BERLIN (AFP) – With coach Julian Nagelsmann (pic below) touted as the next Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola and striker Timo Werner providing the goals, ambitious RB Leipzig are targetting a home Champions League win over Lyon tomorrow (3am Brunei time) in their bid to reach the last 16.
Leipzig flew out of the blocks a fortnight ago when Germany international Werner, 23, scored twice in a 2-1 win at Benfica to top Group G, while Lyon drew 1-1 at home to Zenit St Peterburg.
“It’s not like we’re here to make up the numbers, we want to get out of the group,” said Werner who targets home victories over Lyon, Zenit, and Benfica.
“If we win those games, and we can beat anyone at home, then we will almost have a foot in the last 16. That has to be our goal.”
Ambitious words for an ambitious club during only their second Champions League campaign.
“The key is that we have more experienced players on the pitch, who know what it’s all about,” assured attacker Emil Forsberg.
Their 2017-18 competition debut ended in disappointment when they finished third in the group, dropping to the Europa League where they reached the quarter finals.
Nagelsmann, 32, and Werner have points to prove against Lyon after the harsh reality check of last Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat by Schalke cost them top spot in the Bundesliga.
Despite his tally of seven goals so far this term, Werner has not scored in the three games since the Benfica win, while by his own admission, Nagelsmann lost his composure against Schalke.
“You could tell that he’s a guy who doesn’t like to lose,” said captain Willi Orban.
“That was not typical RB football”.
Werner and Nagelsmann epitomise the club’s aspirations to consistently challenge in the Bundesliga and become a force in Europe, backed by energy drinks firm Red Bull.
Werner could have spoken for Nagelsmann in admitting “I am not world class yet, no, and I’m working on getting to that level.”
His role model is Robert Lewandowski and persistent rumours suggest Bayern Munich have ear-marked Werner, who signed a new contract in August, to eventually replace their star striker.
Leipzig are only in their fourth year in Germany’s top tier and this is Nagelsmann’s first season in charge.
The club regard him as a rising coaching star who is set to reach the same elite level as Liverpool’s Klopp or Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.
“Julian is a huge German talent as a coach,” Ralf Rangnick, the beverage company’s head of sport, told daily newspaper paper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
“He is very mature for his age and has come a long way, if he continues to develop like this, he can reach the level of Klopp and Guardiola.”
However, to be considered a peer of Klopp and Guardiola, Nagelsmann needs to win titles and, like Werner, is the first to admit he is still learning.
“I find it relatively easy to remain humble – if you go crazy every match day, you’re out of your element, because it’s all about confirming and repeating performances,” he said earlier this month.
However, he broke his own rules when he was booked last Saturday “because I acted like a mad man” for arguing with the referee after Schalke’s Amine Harit was awarded a dubious penalty after faint contact in the area.
Both Nagelsmann and his team must do better against Lyon.
Skipper Orban expects an “intensive game” against a French side with “a lot of quality and experience”.