When the Champions League resumes in the new year with the Round of 16, Liverpool will face Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, a difficult opponent that have established themselves near the top of German football with an aggressive, uptempo approach.
It will be the first meeting of the two clubs, making for something of a rarity in the later rounds of European competitions where it’s difficult to find a side Liverpool haven’t gone up against at least a couple of times in their long and storied history.
Leipzig, on the other hand and for all their competitiveness in Germany in recent seasons, don’t have much history. The club were founded in 2009, just 11 years ago, after Red Bull GmbH became determined to extend their brand into football.
The energy drinks brand’s first attempts, the coopting of lower league side FC Sachsen Leipzig, met with protests and failure. Two further attempts to orchestrate takeovers of existing clubs failed, and plans turned to the founding of a new club.
Leipzig, a city of half a million with no club playing higher than Germany’s fourth division, once again drew their attention, and a plan to purchase the playing rights of one of those fourth division sides, SSV Markranstädt, was pushed through.
As a result, RB Leipzig played their first season in the fifth division rather than entering the lowest tier regional league and earning a playing license through promotion. SSV Markranstädt were reformed and entered the lowest regional league.
Their existence as a purely corporate entity that exists solely to promote a caffeinated soda beverage has made Leipzig an unpopular side in Germany, but the brand’s willingness to invest has ensured they have been successful in the sport.
Their only trophies, though, remain lower league ones. They won the fifth division, Oberliga Sud, in their first season and the fourth division, Regionalliga Nordost, in their fourth. They were promoted from 3.Liga and 2.Bundesliga as runners-up.
They also won the lower league Saxony Cup in 2010-11 and 2012-13, and came second in the Bundesliga in 2016-17. The first leg against Liverpool will be in Leipzig on the 16th or 17th of February, with the return at Anfield on the 9th or 10th of March.
The other Round of 16 games see Monchengladbach paired with Manchester City, Lazio taking on Bayern , Atletico facing Chelsea, FC Porto playing Juventus, Barcelona against PSG, Sevilla playing Dortmund, and Atalanta taking on Real Madrid.