There are probably no more pleasant guests in the world than the Scots. At least if the reason for the visit has something to do with football. RasenBallsport Leipzig has already experienced this twice. In the winter of 2017, the Glasgow Rangers brought 8,000 fans with them to a test match before the start of the second half of the season, who fell out of the planes singing and drinking and populated the city center pubs and the way to the stadium. At that time, after their bankruptcy crash in 2012 and the restart in the fourth division, the Rangers had just been promoted back to the Scottish Premiership and, after years of being withdrawn from the European Cup, celebrated the trip in Saxon snowstorms. The following year, Celtic Glasgow were guests in the Europa League in the trade fair city and came with 4,000 supporters who, despite the defeat, danced on the bar late into the night and intoned their heartrending chants at the top of their lungs.
This Thursday it will be emotional again, loud and full in the center of Leipzig. Everywhere the slang of the Glaswegians, which can hardly be understood even when sober, will be heard. Since 2008, the Protestant Rangers, nicknamed “Zombies” by Catholic Celtic fans after the club’s re-establishment, have made it back to a European semi-final.
Opponent Leipzig will make its debut in the last four of the Europa League after the semi-finals in the Champions League 2020. Although RB only issued 2,400 guest tickets as planned, around 7,000 Scottish supporters are said to be approaching. Fans of Hamburger SV, with whom the Rangers supporters have a fan friendship, helped to get the tickets. The blue jerseys of the 55-time Scottish record champions will not only shine in the guest block, but throughout the stadium. “It then feels like a home game away,” says visiting coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The Dutchman only took over the post from Steven Gerrard in November. »I came with my team and we had to start immediately. But it worked well, we did it together,” recalls the 106-time Dutch international. “I’m very proud of the players, how they performed against the various opponents.”
Domenico Tedesco was initially surprised that the Rangers, who are compact, are dangerous with set pieces and mostly switch excellently on the wings and the fast, dribble-strong Ryan Kent, also knocked out Dortmund. “When I then saw more games against Celtic, Zagreb and Braga, it was no longer a surprise,” said Leipzig’s coach. As far as physicality is concerned, he compared the Rangers to Union Berlin, which on Saturday in the final minutes of the Bundesliga match gave Leipzig their first defeat after 15 games with a double strike. “This is a physically strong team that is able to beat any opponent if you get involved in their game,” warns Tedesco. But unlike the Berliners, Glasgow would try to “play football more, find the half-spaces and the sixes, shift the game and play in depth”.
At RB they hope that the league defeat against Union was a slip at the right time. “We mustn’t forget where we come from. We had a lot of highlight games. It is then also tolerable that we are not so good in a game,” Tedesco apologized. Against the Berliners, his Leipzigers were not only “not good in terms of football, but also in terms of intensity, freshness, aggressiveness, liveliness”. After two days off, the energy should now be back in the heads and bodies. ‘I’m not worried at all. Playing every three days is a privilege, it inspires you,” said Leipzig’s coach and said with a view to the German cup final: “We’ve already reached one final, now we want the second.”
One imponderable on the way to the final in Seville is how RB Leipzig will cope with the failures in defense. The passionate Mohamed Simakan is suspended, as is defender Willi Orban and midfield metronome Kevin Kampl. Tedesco hinted that for the first time in his tenure he was putting up a back four that the team under predecessor Jesse Marsch rarely got along with. “You have to be able to play a back four, that’s not a risk,” emphasized the native Italian.
So Leipzig is ready for the visit from Glasgow – on the square and at the taps. “We’re happy that a lot of fans are coming and we’re playing in a great atmosphere,” said Tedesco, but qualified: “They told me at my hotel that they were expecting 300 Rangers fans. So I’ll be sleeping at the academy for the next two days,’ he joked. By the way: In the legendary Ibrox Park in one week, RasenBallsport will be accompanied by around 1000 fans, as the club announced when asked. The almost 13-year-old Leipziger cannot win the fan comparison against the 150-year-old Glasgow giants.