Leipzig to launch European bid in front of 999 fans

Berlin (AFP) –


RB Leipzig aim to build on their run to the Champions League semi-finals in August when they launch their fresh assault in Europe at home to Turkish side FK Basaksehir on Tuesday with the benefit of home crowd support.

Despite rising numbers of the coronavirus across Germany, the local health authority in Leipzig has granted permission for up to 999 spectators at the Red Bull Arena, down from the usual number of 8,500 fans allowed for home Bundesliga games.

European champions Bayern Munich will host Atletico Madrid behind closed doors on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena.

The seven-day rate of infection for the coronavirus in Leipzig on Monday is close to 20 per 100,000 inhabitants, way down on Berlin with 87 and Munich with 70.

Bundesliga leaders Leipzig are eager to get an opening win before heading to Manchester United, then hosting Paris Saint Germain - who beat them in the Champions League semi-finals - in consecutive weeks.

"We know we've got a challenging group," admitted Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann.

Last season, Leipzig reached the last four las term on their debut in the knock-out stages by beating Tottenham Hotspur and Atletico Madrid.

"It's a strange feeling that it's starting again now, but we are looking forward to it," said Nagelsmann, just 63 days after their semi-final defeat to PSG.

Leipzig warmed up with an impressive 2-0 win over in-form side Augsburg on Saturday to stay top of the Bundesliga with ex-Manchester City left-back Angelino and Denmark striker Yussuf Poulsen providing the goals.

"We have become even more precise with the ball and our counter-pressing has improved a lot," said Leipzig's ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

"We are all hungry and we saw what can be achieved last season."

Mali midfielder Amadou Haidara could return to the Leipzig side, providing he tests negative for Covid-19 having missed the Augsburg win after a positive test.

The Turkish champions sit in the league's relegation places after three defeats in their opening games.

Basaksehir, backed by Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have an aging squad, which includes two 35-year -olds in former Liverpool defender in Martin Skrtel and Senegal striker Demba Ba.

The side from Istanbul won the Turkish league title last season for the first time in the club's history by four points.