Timo Werner acknowledges he has little hope of outscoring Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga this season, as the Bayern Munich forward's form can only be matched by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

RB Leipzig striker Werner has scored an impressive 11 league goals so far in 2019-20, yet he lags behind the remarkable Lewandowski.

The Bayern and Poland superstar has struck 16 times in the Bundesliga and leads the way among players in Europe's top leagues this season, with 23 goals in 18 games in all competitions – including in each top-flight and Champions League match.

Indeed, Werner believes only all-time greats Messi and Ronaldo can reach the extraordinary standards set by Lewandowski.

"It's hard [to be top-scorer]," Werner told a news conference on Thursday.

"When you score two goals against Hertha Berlin and then watch the game evening game, having scored four or three goals less than Robert Lewandowski this season, and he scores twice against Borussia Dortmund...

"Against whom is he not going to score? That's very hard.

"How he is playing at the moment, maybe only one or two players on the planet are on this level. That's the category of Messi and Ronaldo."

Werner was speaking alongside Germany team-mate Joshua Kimmich on international duty.

The duo each came through the Stuttgart academy before moving on to Leipzig, but Werner claimed he was not discussing a next move with Bayern's Kimmich, despite repeated talk of him switching to the Allianz Arena.

"We don't really talk about it at all," he said. "It was also a coincidence that I came to Leipzig when he was there. I don't imitate everything that Joshua Kimmich does.

"If he goes to Real Madrid, I'm not going to Real Madrid also. Leipzig was the perfect step for me as well as for him.

"He took the step to Bayern Munich relatively early, which was also a good step. Now I'm still a player at Leipzig. That was the right step for me.

"I don't know what the future will bring. But I won't imitate Joshua and go wherever he is."

RB Leipzig captain Willi Orban has been ruled out until 2020 due to a knee injury, the Bundesliga club have confirmed.

The 27-year-old has undergone an arthroscopy to correct a problem and will be sidelined until after the mid-season break.

Orban is set to miss the league matches with Cologne, Paderborn, Hoffenheim, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Borussia Dortmund and Augsburg.

He will also be unavailable for the Champions League games against Benfica and Lyon, with Leipzig top of Group G on nine points from four matches.

The Hungary defender has made 14 appearances in all competitions for Julian Nagelsmann's side this season, scoring once.

Leipzig, who are four points behind leaders Borussia Monchengladbach in the table, begin the second half of the Bundesliga campaign at home to Union Berlin on January 18.

Romelu Lukaku's two-goal showing for Inter at Bologna has earned him a place in the FUT Team of the Week, though Timo Werner's inclusion is arguably the most deserved of this week's selection.

Werner lit up the Bundesliga at the weekend with a hat-trick and a treble of assists in RB Leipzig's 8-0 demolition of Mainz, having a hand in all but two of Leipzig's goals in a remarkable win.

The Germany international became only the second player to be involved in six goals in a single Bundesliga match since detailed Opta data collection began in 2004-05 – the first being Claudio Pizarro with four goals and two assists in May 2013.

He is partnered in attack by Lukaku after his goals secured 2-1 comeback win on the road, while a forward-thinking back three includes Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt and Manchester City full-back Kyle Walker.

Below, we examine the entire squad that is set to be up for grabs online.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 86

RB: Kyle Walker (Manchester City) – 86

CB: Matthijs de Ligt (Piemonte Calcio/Juventus) – 86

LB: Alex Grimaldo (Benfica) – 85

LM: Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 84

CAM: Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao) – 84

CM: Luis Alberto (Lazio) – 86

LM: Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund) – 84

CAM: Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) – 86

ST: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) – 85

ST: Romelu Lukaku (Inter) – 86

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Walter Benitez (Nice) – 83

CB: Chris Smalling (Roma) – 83

LB: Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors/Buenos Aires) – 82

RM: Fabian Orellana (Eibar) – 82

CAM: Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders) – 82

ST: Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) – 84

ST: Joao Pedro (Cagliari) – 81

RESERVES

CB: Harry Ashcroft (Finn Harps) – 69

ST: Camillo Ciano (Frosinone) – 80

CM: John Lundstram (Sheffield United) – 76

ST: Mohamed Buya Turay (Djurgardens) – 77

ST: Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (Tranmere Rovers) – 71

Diego Demme and Marcel Sabitzer earned RB Leipzig a 2-0 victory at Zenit that edged Julian Nagelsmann's side closer to qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League.

Stand-in captain Demme rifled a fierce shot past Zenit goalkeeper Mikhail Kerzhakov in the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time to put Leipzig on the path to an important victory.

Nagelsmann's side put six goals past Wolfsburg in the DFB-Pokal last Wednesday and scored eight against Mainz at the weekend, but they lacked a clinical edge with Timo Werner starting on the bench due to a muscle complaint.

Werner, who scored five goals and assisted the same amount in those two resounding victories, came on in the 61st minute and played a role in Sabitzer ensuring they retained top spot in Group G regardless of the result between Lyon and Benfica later on Tuesday.

Leipzig thought they had taken the lead in the 14th minute when Marcel Halstenberg picked out the bottom-right corner from 20 yards, but referee Orel Grinfeld disallowed the goal upon review because the ball brushed Christopher Nkunku's arm in the build-up.

Douglas Santos almost won Zenit a penalty after the half-hour mark, though VAR confirmed the on-field decision to only award a free-kick.

Sardar Azmoun scuffed wide and Zenit paid the price when Sabitzer's free-kick was blocked and Demme drilled a fine follow-up effort home from 25 yards on the stroke of half-time.

Nkunku and Emil Forsberg were denied by Kerzhakov before Werner was sent on for the Frenchman.

Werner played a role in Leipzig's second goal in the 63rd minute, feeding Forsberg with a pass the Swede slid in behind for Sabitzer to finish at the near post.

Artem Dzyuba and Dayot Upamecano were booked for a heated confrontation before Peter Gulacsi produced a stunning stop to keep Yordan Osorio's header out of the top-left corner and secure the clean sheet.

 

What does it mean? History for Nagelsmann

Nagelsmann became the youngest coach to oversee 10 games in the Champions League at 32 years and 105 days old, beating the record set by BATE's Viktor Goncharenko in 2011 by two years and 39 days.

The former Hoffenheim boss also navigated Leipzig's first clean sheet in the competition at the 10th attempt.

Sabitzer on song

While Werner has grabbed the headlines over the past week, Sabitzer once again proved key for Leipzig in the Champions League. He has now been directly involved in six goals in his nine Champions League appearances for the club.

Erokhin lives on the edge

Aleksandr Erokhin was booked for a wild lunge on Upamecano inside six minutes and while he avoided a second yellow card for another reckless challenge on Konrad Laimer, Leipzig used the resulting free-kick to move ahead.

What's next?

Leipzig take on Hertha Berlin away on Saturday, while Zenit travel to Arsenal Tula the following day.

Tuesday's Champions League schedule presents the chance for Marco Reus to set a new record for Borussia Dortmund, while Erling Haaland will hope to maintain his scoring run.

Reus drew a blank last time out in Europe, the Bundesliga side losing 2-0 to Inter, but will hope to make club history in the return fixture in Germany.

Barcelona are top of the table in the same group and the reigning LaLiga champions will be eager to preserve their unbeaten home run when they take on Slavia Prague at Camp Nou.

Liverpool are another team who seem to relish having home comforts, plus history tells us Chelsea should be feeling confident when Ajax visit Stamford Bridge.

We have picked out some of the notable numbers from Opta ahead of the eight games taking place at the start of matchweek four.

 

Barcelona v Slavia Prague

15 - Following his goal last time out, Lionel Messi has now scored in 15 consecutive UEFA Champions League seasons he has appeared in (since the start of 2005-06), a feat only matched by Real Madrid icon Raul (between 1995-96 and 2010-11).

33 - Barcelona are on a run of 33 home games without defeat in the competition. That is the longest streak in Champions League history, while they have only lost once in their last 55 outings at Camp Nou.

 

Borussia Dortmund v Inter

3 - Lautaro Martinez will look to become the first player to find the net in three consecutive Champions League appearances for Inter since Samuel Eto'o, who scored in four in a row in 2010

17 - Marco Reus has scored 17 Champions League goals for Borussia Dortmund, making him the club's joint-top scorer alongside former team-mate Robert Lewandowski.

 

Chelsea v Ajax

10 - Willian has created 10 goalscoring chances for his Chelsea team-mates so far in Europe this season. However, he is still yet to provide an assist!

100 - Chelsea have won every Champions League match when they have faced Eredivisie opponents. They overcame Ajax in the reverse fixture last time out, adding to home and away victories over Feyenoord in the 1999-2000 season.

 

Liverpool v Genk

11 - Alisson has kept 11 clean sheets in his Champions League career - six for Liverpool and five for Roma. Only Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen (12) has posted more since the start of the 2017-18 season.

23 - Liverpool have not lost at home in all European competitions since October 2014, a run of 23 games. The last visiting team to celebrate success at Anfield? Real Madrid (3-0).

 

Lyon v Benfica

0 - Benfica have won none of their four away Champions League matches played on French soil (D2 L2). In fact, they have failed to score a single goal so far!

6 - Lyon have drawn each of their last six home Champions League matches – the longest such run in the history of the competition.

 

Napoli v Salzburg

13 - Will Napoli get lucky at home for a 13th time in the Champions League? They have won 12 of their last 18 played out in front of their own fans, including four of the last five since a 4-2 loss to Manchester City in November 2017.

19 - Erling Haaland (19) is aiming to become only the second teenager in the history of Europe's top-tier club tournament to score in four consecutive appearances. Only Kylian Mbappe has previously achieved the feat.

 

Valencia v Lille 

10 - Valencia have conceded at least once in each of their last 10 home Champions League matches. They have been beaten in their last two European home games and will be aiming to avoid losing three in a row at the Mestalla for the first since November 2007.

14 - Including qualifiers, Lille are winless in their last 14 European games (D7 L7). Their last victory was way back in July 2014.

 

Zenit v RB Leipzig

14 - Zenit have won their previous 14 group-stage matches at home in the Europa League and Champions League combined, a run stretching back to November 2014, when they beaten 2-1 by Bayer Leverkusen.

10 - At 32 years and 105 days, Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann will become the youngest coach to reach the milestone of 10 Champions League matches in charge.

DFB-Pokal holders Bayern Munich will host Hoffenheim in the last 16 of this season's competition, while two fourth-tier sides were handed home advantage.

Bayern were made to sweat in their second-round tie, needing two goals in the last seven minutes to scrape past second-tier strugglers Bochum.

Niko Kovac's side - who have won the tournament 19 times - beat RB Leipzig in last season's final and will be favourites against Hoffenheim in one of four all-Bundesliga ties.

Other clashes between sides in Germany's top tier see Eintracht Frankfurt host Leipzig, Schalke take on Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen welcome Borussia Dortmund.

Interest in the fortunes of Saarbrucken and Verl will be high, with both sides playing in the regionalised fourth tier of German football.

Verl top the Regionalliga West table and will host Bundesliga opposition in Union Berlin, while Saarbrucken are also flying high in the league, sitting first in the Regionalliga South West standings.

Saarbrucken, who scored a stoppage-time winner to beat top-flight opponents Cologne 3-2 in the second round, will host 2. Bundesliga outfit Karlsruher.

Kaiserslautern, who have plummeted to the third tier in recent years, are in the relegation zone but have a chance to raise spirits when they welcome Fortuna Dusseldorf of the Bundesliga.

The other tie in the last 16 sees Bayer Leverkusen take on 2. Bundesliga high-flyers Stuttgart.

All third-round ties will be played on February 4 and 5.

DFB-Pokal last 16 draw

Eintracht Frankfurt v RB Leipzig
Bayer Leverkusen v Stuttgart
Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim
Schalke v Hertha Berlin
Saarbrucken v Karlsruher
Werder Bremen v Borussia Dortmund
Kaiserslautern v Fortuna Dusseldorf
Verl v Union Berlin

Out of work and looking for a job – Massimiliano Allegri could be poised for a return to the dugout.

Allegri left Juventus at the end of 2018-19 after guiding the Old Lady to five consecutive Serie A titles.

The Italian coach has been linked to Manchester United but, with Niko Kovac on the brink at Bayern Munich, Allegri could find himself in Bavaria.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN GO FOR ALLEGRI

Bayern Munich want former Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri to replace Niko Kovac, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Kovac is on the verge of being sacked after Bayern's humiliating 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, with the Bundesliga champions cancelling Sunday's public training session as pressure mounts.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax's Erik ten Hag have been linked but Bayern have reportedly identified the man to take over in Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror claims Manchester United are ready to hijack Liverpool's move for RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner. Champions League holders Liverpool have been linked to Werner, however, United want to bring the Germany international to Old Trafford in January.

Perth Glory are still optimistic they can lure Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Australia, reports The West Australian. After revealing an approach for Ibrahimovic on a guest-player contract, A-League side Perth have seen Serie A outfit Bologna confirm their interest in the 38-year-old striker ahead of the January transfer window. Ibrahimovic's LA Galaxy contract will expire before the end of the year.

Tottenham are eyeing a January swoop for Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana. With Hugo Lloris out injured, Spurs are on the lookout for a new keeper and £35million could see Eredivisie champions Ajax sell the Cameroon international.

- According to the Guardian, Arsenal have joined United and Juventus in the transfer chase for Salzburg sensation Erling Haaland.

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona have dropped their interest in Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar. The Slovakia international has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world since joined Inter in 2017.

United and Paris Saint-Germain are leading the race to sign Juventus midfielder Emre Can, according to Corriere dello Sport.

RB Leipzig thrashed Mainz 8-0 and moved above Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga table as Germany international Timo Werner had a hand in six goals.

Julian Nagelsmann's team were 5-0 up at the interval after Marcel Sabitzer, Werner, Christopher Nkunku, Marcel Halstenberg and Yussuf Poulsen all found the net.

Werner scored again three minutes into the second half and then provided his third assist of the afternoon for Nordi Mukiele to make it 7-0 with 40 minutes still to play.

It was 8-0 when Werner swept home to complete his hat-trick three minutes from time and Leipzig's big win, coupled with Bayern's shock 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt, meant Nagelsmann's side moved above the champions and into third in the Bundesliga table, four points behind leaders Borussia Monchengladbach.

Former Eintracht Frankfurt star Alexander Meier believes Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig can challenge Bayern Munich for Bundesliga honours this season.

Bayern are eyeing their eighth consecutive league crown after overhauling rivals Dortmund to the title last season, however, the German giants have struggled to convince in an open start to the campaign.

Borussia Monchengladbach top the standings by a point ahead of Bayern, with only five points separating first and ninth-placed Frankfurt after nine rounds.

Bayern have dominated German football, but Meier backed last season's runners-up Dortmund and Julian Nagelsmann's Leipzig to vie for silverware.

"Bayern are the team to beat every year if you want to win the title," Meier – who now plays for A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers – told Omnisport.

"This season maybe Dortmund or Leipzig. It's very close this year. It is good for the league that many teams can challenge for the championship but at the end of the season, it will be Bayern, Dortmund or maybe Leipzig."

Bayern will face a big test when they travel to Frankfurt to play Eintracht at Commerzbank-Arena on Saturday.

While Bayern have won the last three meetings, Eintracht have proven to be tricky opposition, with Meier a member of the team that stunned the Bavarian powerhouse 3-1 in the 2018 DFB-Pokal final.

"In Frankfurt, we had some close games," Meier added. "Of course Bayern are always the limit of the league but at home we had some good games. Last season it was close.

"I hope and I wish them all the best, but they have to bring 100 per cent against Bayern."

Bayern will again rely heavily on leading scorer Robert Lewandowski, who has netted 13 goals through nine matches – seven more than nearest rival Timo Werner of Leipzig.

Only two players aside from Lewandowski have topped the Bundesliga charts in the past six seasons – Meier (2014-15) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2016-17).

And 36-year-old striker Meier expects Lewandowski's domination to continue after a record-breaking start to 2019-20 in Munich.

"No," Meier said when asked if anyone can beat Lewandowski to the top of the scoring charts. "There will be nobody because he scores every game and he has already rescued his team a lot this season. He scores difficult goals and makes it look easy. It's just amazing how he scores."

The future of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is once again in the headlines.

Lazio star Milinkovic-Savic has been linked with Manchester United, Juventus, Real Madrid, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.

Now another club are reportedly in the mix for the Serbia international midfielder.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

Chelsea sent scouts to watch Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in the Europa League, reports TuttoMercato.

One of the most in-demand midfielders in Europe, Milinkovic-Savic has attracted interest from Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

Milinkovic-Savic – who was reportedly set to join United if Paul Pogba left Old Trafford – was watched as Lazio lost 2-1 to Celtic in Glasgow on Thursday.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and The Sun claims Chelsea are interested in Bournemouth forward Callum Wilson and RB Leipzig star Timo Werner.

Manchester United have rekindled their interest in Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller, according to Sport BILD. Muller was wanted by former United boss Louis van Gaal before the Dutchman's departure in 2016. Now with Muller seeking a Bayern exit, United and Inter are in the mix for the Germany international.

- The prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining Antonio Conte's Inter has hit a snag. According to CalcioMercato, the presence of agent Mino Raiola could cause an issue in talks. Ibrahimovic's LA Galaxy contract is coming to an end and the veteran has been linked to Napoli and Bologna.

- Sky Sport Italia says free agent Jack Rodwell is set for a shock move to Serie A outfit Roma. The former Manchester City midfielder, who spent time at Blackburn Rovers last season, is poised to undergo a medical.

Juventus are set to have money to splash at the end of the season.

Eight-time reigning Serie A champions Juve are repeating the rewards of their domestic dominance.

And it could see some of Europe's elite join Cristiano Ronaldo in Turin.

 

TOP STORY - JUVENTUS REACH FOR THE STARS

Juventus are eyeing a blockbuster signing, with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Paul Pogba the targets, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Italian champions Juve are reportedly set to announce an increase of capital by €300million as they establish their position among Europe's elite clubs.

PSG's superstar pair Mbappe and Neymar fit the profile of a future eye-catching signing, as well as Manchester United's former Juve midfielder Pogba, Gazzetta says.

The report also mentions Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho, Atletico Madrid's Joao Felix and Tottenham forward Son Heung-min.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester Evening News reports Manchester United are confident about signing James Maddison from Leicester City. After splashing out a world-record fee for a defender to lure Harry Maguire from Leicester, United are said to have their eyes on another Foxes star as they look to add quality in the attacking third.

Real Madrid are considering a move for AC Milan full-back David Calabria, according to Fichajes.net. The alternatives would be RB Leipzig's Lukas Klostermann and Youcef Atal from Nice as Madrid reportedly look to replace Alvaro Odriozola.

West Ham and Wolves are eyeing January moves for Milan star Suso, says The Sun. The former Liverpool attacker was wanted by Roma during the previous window.

- Soccer Link says Paris Saint-Germain are monitoring Chelsea defender Tariq Lamptey and plan to sign him at the end of the season. The 19-year-old's contract expires at the end of the campaign.

Arsenal will have to spend £30.1million (€35m) if they want to make Dani Ceballos' loan deal from Real Madrid permanent, according to El Desmarque.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich rejected an offer from a Middle East-based consortium to buy the Premier League club, The Daily Telegraph reports.

- The Guardian says Manchester City are stepping up their pursuit to sign in-demand Napoli star Fabian Ruiz. Fabian is also being targeted by Barcelona and Madrid.

RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann confirmed it was primarily a tactical decision to withdraw star forward Timo Werner a half-time during Wednesday's 2-1 comeback win over Zenit in the Champions League.

Yaroslav Rakitskiy's long-range effort gave visitors Zenit a 25th-minute lead at the Red Bull Arena that remained intact at the break midweek.

Nagelsmann opted to end a lacklustre showing from Germany international Werner, sending on Matheus Cunha in his place.

Cunha helped to spark a fine second-half showing, even if his finishing was no match for superb strikes from Konrad Laimer and Marcel Sabitzer – goals that moved the Bundesliga side to the top of Group G.

Former Everton winger Ademola Lookman also impressed after Nagelsmann opted to extend his maiden Champions League appearance at Werner's expense.

"I don't know if he still had a cold but I was just not so happy with how he was interpreting the position," the former Hoffenheim coach told a post-match news conference when discussing Werner's performance.

"We had a clear idea, as I said already, and I think that Ademola Lookman was a bit better in the game.

"It was obvious that the opponent will focus on defending after their lead, we needed more crosses then.

"It was the key for us during the half time to say we have to focus on the winger’s positions. So I needed a forward who is good with headers.

"As I was a bit happier with Mola, Timo had to stay inside."

Werner has been persistently linked with a move away from Leipzig, with Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Liverpool all reported to be among his potential suitors.

The 23-year-old has eight goals in 12 appearances this season and Nagelsmann insisted his midweek misery should not be given any wider significance.

"This is not a big drama, neither for Timo nor for the future," he added. "He played a lot of games and made a lot of goals. Today the others scored and we won."

Julian Nagelsmann felt RB Leipzig's calmness under pressure was crucial to their 2-1 comeback win over Zenit in the Champions League.

Leipzig fell behind to their Russian visitors in the 25th minute when Yaroslav Rakitskiy scored a thumping long-range drive.

Star forward Timo Werner made way at half-time but Nagelsmann's side were a team transformed after the restart, with wonderful goals from Konrad Laimer and Marcel Sabitzer their reward.

"Given our form and the fact we fell behind, I think it's incredible how calm we stayed," said Nagelsmann – as quoted by UEFA.com – following a winless run of four matches heading into Wednesday's match.

"There were a few times we took too many risks and were fortunate that Zenit's final pass lacked precision. This was a crucial win at a crucial time and fully deserved."

Sabitzer's winner was a strike to remember as he controlled Lukas Klostermann's cross on his chest before sending a sweetly struck volley into the top-left corner with the outside of his right foot.

"It was a deserved victory, especially after the second half," Sabitzer said. "We had the opponent clearly under control and then we got our success.

"We were under pressure after losing to Lyon. We have withstood this and have our fate in our own hands. It's been a great football evening."

Leipzig lead Group G on six points, two better off than Zenit ahead of the return fixture in St Petersburg two weeks from now.

"Leipzig are a good, fast team, with quality both in pressing and in attack. But they are still playable – we'll try again in two weeks," said Zenit head coach Sergei Semak.

"We looked disciplined in the first half but then we conceded twice and something broke down in our game.

"The result is fair – Leipzig had their chances and made the most of them."

Excellent second-half goals from Konrad Laimer and Marcel Sabitzer saw RB Leipzig claim an impressive 2-1 Champions League win over Zenit.

Yaroslav Rakitskiy opened the scoring after 25 minutes for Sergei Semak's visitors, thumping in from long range.

Leipzig's star striker Timo Werner made way at half-time but Julian Nagelsmann's men were revitalised and the influential Laimer got them back on terms.

A picture-book winner from Sabitzer followed in the 59th minute, lifting the Bundesliga side to the top of Group G ahead of the later kick-off between Benfica and Lyon.

Laimer's speculative first-minute strike was pushed onto the crossbar by scampering Zenit goalkeeper Mikhail Kerzhakov.

The visitors began to find room on the break and, after Sebastian Driussi wastefully smashed a volleyed attempt into the turf, Rakitskiy emphatically clattered home a bouncing ball from 25 yards when Leipzig failed to clear.

Werner hacked a chance over when Rakitskiy missed a defensive diving header, leaving Zenit's advantage intact at the interval.

Nagelsmann withdrew the Germany forward before the restart and his replacement Matheus Cunha made an instant impression – juggling the ball inside a crowded Zenit penalty area to fire an overhead kick wide.

That display of flair seemed to spark the hosts and a wonderfully worked equaliser arrived in the 49th minute.

Laimer dummied Ademola Lookman's pass to Sabitzer and continued his run to collect a perfectly weighted return, arrowing a first-time finish across Kerzhakov.

Zenit attacks became increasingly sporadic, although Oleg Shatov and substitute Yordan Osorio both fired over from clear openings.

Those misses came either side of Sabitzer's majestic winner, the winger controlling a Lukas Klostermann cross on his chest and curling a beautiful volley into the top-left corner with the outside of his right boot.

Cunha blotted his influential showing by missing a pair of late one-on-ones, but Leipzig saw out a hard-earned triumph.

What does it mean? Leipzig and Nagelsmann earning Champions League stripes

Leipzig were unable to progress beyond the group stage on their Champions League debut in 2017-18 and Nagelsmann suffered a similar fate in charge of Hoffenheim last season. At half-time, their misery looked set to continue in unison, but the Bundesliga side are now well-placed ahead of a tricky trip to Russia.

Laimer pulls the strings

Laimer's clear gesture to Sabitzer to show exactly where he wanted the pass for his goal was entirely in keeping with a majestic performance from the 22-year-old midfielder, who frequently seemed to see the whole picture unfolding a frame or two before anyone else.

Better not worse without Werner

The home side's star man laboured before the break and Leipzig improved massively in his absence. The fact it remained unclear whether Werner had been withdrawn due to tactical or fitness concerns told its own story.

What's next

Zenit travel to Krylya Sovetov in the Russian Premier League on Sunday, a day on from Leipzig's Bundesliga trip to Freiburg.

Luis Suarez is bidding to end a miserable run in away Champions League matches as Barcelona travel to play Slavia Prague in one of eight games on Wednesday.

Barca earned an important win over Inter on matchday two but still have work to do to progress from a competitive Group F that also contains Borussia Dortmund, who face Antonio Conte's side this time around.

Chelsea travel to play Group H pace-setters Ajax in Amsterdam, having got their campaign back on track with a win against Lille last time out.

Liverpool trail Napoli in Group E but will be confident of defeating Genk after edging a thrilling contest against Salzburg 4-3 at Anfield three weeks ago.

Below, we have highlighted the key data ahead of Wednesday's contests.

RB Leipzig v Zenit

7 - RB Leipzig's last seven Champions League results have alternated between a win and a defeat. They lost their last match 2-0 at home to Lyon.

10 - Zenit are winless in their last 10 away European matches (including qualifiers), drawing three and losing seven since beating Real Sociedad 3-1 in a Europa League match back in December 2017.
 

Ajax v Chelsea

5 -  If he scores against Chelsea, Quincy Promes will become the fifth Dutchman in the history of the European Cup/Champions League to score in three consecutive appearances for Ajax. The others are Johan Cruyff (April 1969), Ruud Geels (November 1977), Ruud Krol (October 1979) and Patrick Kluivert (October 1995). 

8 - Since losing 3-0 at Barcelona in March 2018, Chelsea have lost none of their eight away European matches (W6 D2 L0), their longest ever unbeaten away run on the continent.
 

Salzburg v Napoli

0 -  This is the first Champions League encounter between an Austrian team and an Italian side since December 2005, when Juventus won 3-1 away at Rapid Vienna. A team from Austria have never beaten an Italian outfit in the Champions League (W0 D1 L7).

19 – Including qualifiers, Salzburg have not lost any of their last 19 home European matches (W15 D4 L0), winning the last six in a row.
 

Genk v Liverpool

14 - Should Genk fail to defeat Liverpool, they will set a record for games played in the European Cup/Champions League without winning. They have played 14 so far (W0 D8 L6), level with Floriana and Shamrock Rovers.

1 – Liverpool have won only one of their last 10 away Champions League group-stage matches (W1 D3 L6), losing each of the last four in a row.
 

Benfica v Lyon

10 - No French side has ever won an away European match against Benfica in 14 attempts (W0 D4 L10), with 10 different teams failing to win.

2 – Lyon are looking to win consecutive away Champions League matches in the same campaign for the first time since 2009, when they beat Debreceni and Liverpool.
 

Inter v Borussia Dortmund

6 - Inter are winless in six European matches against German opposition (W0 D1 L5) since a 3-2 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League in March 2011.

2 – Dortmund have only conceded two goals in their last eight Champions League group stage matches, keeping clean sheets in seven of those matches.
 

Slavia Prague v Barcelona

4 – This is the first meeting between the two sides in Europe, though Barcelona have won all four of their previous Champions League meetings against Czech opponents.

19 – Suarez scored twice against Inter on MD2 in Barcelona's 2-1 victory, but the Uruguay striker is goalless in his last 19 away Champions League matches, attempting 59 shots without success since a goal against Roma in September 2015.
 

Lille v Valencia

6 - Lille are yet to defeat a Spanish team in the Champions League in six attempts (W0 D3 L3), facing Deportivo de La Coruna, Villarreal and Valencia previously without success.

11 – Valencia have failed to score in seven of their last 11 Champions League matches. Prior to that run, they had been unable to score in just seven of their previous 33 in the competition.

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