Following a pulsating 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League playoff tie, Real Sociedad and RB Leipzig renew hostilities in the second leg at the Anoeta Stadium on Thursday.
Christopher Nkunku and Emil Forsberg struck for the Bundesliga outfit in the first leg, while Robin Le Normand and Mikel Oyarzabal made the net ripple for this week’s hosts.
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.
RB Leipzig coach Domenico Tedesco reacts on February 17, 2022© Reuters
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.