After a crushing defeat against top-four rivals Leicester in midweek, Liverpool’s hopes of salvaging their season perhaps now rely on Champions League success. The Premier League champions conceded three goals in just seven minutes in a 3-1 defeat at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, with Jurgen Klopp’s side now 13 points off leaders Manchester City, who have a game in hand. Domestic form has been hard to come by in recent weeks, but in the Champions League Liverpool have an opportunity to realign their focus and get their campaign back on track.

They face an almighty challenge in the shape of RB Leipzig, however, who sit second in the Bundesliga, just four points off the reigning Champions League champions Bayern Munich, who have admittedly played one game less. Elsewhere, Mauricio Pochettino will taste his first experience of Champions League football with Paris Saint-Germain as they welcome Barcelona to town, while Porto take on Juventus and Sevilla face Borussia Dortmund in an intriguing week.

Jurgen Klopp under pressure

Liverpool were a results machine last year, churning out endless victories despite not always putting in the performance to match. This year, they’ve found wins harder to come by, particularly in recent weeks as they’ve been hit by brutal defeats to Manchester City and Leicester. To put their form into perspective, at the same stage last season – after 24 games – Liverpool were 19 points clear at the top of the table on 70 and with a goal difference of 41. Now, they are in fourth place, 13 points off City and with a goal difference of 13.

Having lost three Premier League games on the bounce for the first time since 2014, Liverpool and Klopp will perhaps be happy to see the back of domestic football for a game.  However, the memories of their devastating extra-time Champions League defeat to Atletico Madrid at the same stage last year will be fresh in the mind. Bowing out at the first hurdle of the knockout stages would once again prove a hefty blow for Liverpool, particularly with with their hopes of any domestic titles already all-but gone. And though Klopp has the perhaps reasonable excuse of a decimated defence, his side need to start putting results together – and fast.

The Reds certainly weren’t handed a group of death, but not an easy one either with Atalanta, Ajax and FC Midtjylland completing a competitive group. Klopp’s side progressed pretty comfortably, all-but sealing a place in the last-16 after winning their opening three games, including an impressive 1-0 away victory at Ajax. They did drop points in a 2-0 home defeat to Atalanta and a final-game 1-1 draw with FC Midtjylland, but 13 points from a possible 18 saw them top the table without any real qualms.

RB Leipzig in the Champions League

Well, if you just use points as a factor, then favorably. However, while Liverpool weren’t in a group of death, Leipzig certainly were, with Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Istanbul Basaksehir completing their respective quartet. Though defeating Basaksehir 2-0 in their opener, it seemed as if Leipzig may struggle this year – particularly with former star player Timo Werner now at Chelsea – after a 5-0 thrashing at Old Trafford in their following game.

Leipzig then shared a win and a loss with eventual group winners PSG, before completing the double over Basaksehir and clinching second place by surviving a dramatic late comeback in a final-game 3-2 win over United. Though Leipzig’s defence has been immaculate in the league, they haven’t shown the same solidity in Europe, leaking 12 goals to Liverpool’s three.

However, with Liverpool now less assured at the back following a barrage of injuries, it’s an area both sides will confident in unlocking. entre-back Dayot Upamecano will perhaps be the key figure for Leipzig on Tuesday night.

The 22-year-old has proven an almost immovable object in the Leipzig back line in recent years, with the German side holding the best defensive record in the Bundesliga with 18 goals conceded in 21 games. Upamecano has featured in 19 of those games, as well as starting five of Leipzig’s six Champions League games – though he did play the full 90-minutes in their 5-0 defeat to Manchester United. Regardless, Liverpool had been heavily linked with a move for the young defender, alongside Premier League rivals Chelsea. However, that dream was quashed on Sunday as Upamecano officially signed for Bayern Munich, where he will join in the summer.

Should Leipzig progress, they will have to rely on their defensive capabilities, with the threat of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah an ever-present.

Also in action: Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain

It will be the first major test for Mauricio Pochettino at the French giants, though he has already overcome another former Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas as his side lifted the Trophee des Champions with victory over Marseille. What’s perhaps most surprising about this fixture is that neither side are top of their respective divisions as things stand. PSG are one point behind Lille and second in Ligue 1, while Barcelona are down in third place in La Liga and eight points behind Atletico Madrid – despite playing a game more.  Though Barcelona are on a seven-game winning streak in La Liga, they were also handed a blow in a 2-0 away defeat in their Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg. Meanwhile, PSG have found some form under Pochettino, winning four matches on the bounce and seven from their last eight.

RB Leipzig vs Liverpool February 16 (BT 2) March 10 (BT 2)
Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain February 16 (BT 3) March 10 (BT 3)
FC Porto vs Juventus  February 17 (BT 2) March 9 (BT 2)
Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund  February 17 (BT 3) March 9 (BT 3)
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea  February 23 (BT 2) March 17 (TBC)
Lazio vs Bayern Munich  February 23 (BT 3) March 17 (TBC)
Borussia Moenchengladbach vs Manchester City  February 24 (BT 2) March 16 (TBC)
Atalanta vs Real Madrid  February 24 (BT 3) March 16 (TBC)

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