Marco Rose’s face turned serious just over 24 hours before the premier class highlight against Manchester City. Despite all the anticipation of the round of 16, the RB Leipzig coach only had semi-good news to announce.

His difference player Christopher Nkunku, who has just recovered, had to stop the final training session and cannot be in the starting eleven on Wednesday (9 p.m. / DAZN). “Christo reacted muscularly to the game in Wolfsburg. We won’t bring him in from the start. We have to see how he’s doing,” said the 46-year-old. Nkunku should become Leipzig’s X factor in the unequal duel, so to speak the answer to City’s miracle striker Erling Haaland.

“We have to be able to suffer, but not see it as suffering. It has to be fun to chase the ball,” said Rose. A few hours earlier, his star Nkunku was still joking with his colleagues at the start of the final training session and was in a good mood. “”I’m ready for the game and I hope we can do something great at our stadium,” said the France international. On Saturday in Wolfsburg he made his comeback in Wolfsburg after almost 100 days of injury, but on Tuesday he suffered from muscular problems So it can be assumed that Nkunku can only help his team as a joker.

Rose raves about Nkunku

His teammates – especially those in defense – rack their brains until kick-off on how to stop Erling Haaland. But the colleagues from Manchester should do the same in the case of Nkunku. Haaland’s record against Leipzig with six goals in four games sounds impressive, but Nkunku is in no way inferior. After two games against the English champions, his personal record is three goals – for which he only needed the 3: 6 spectacle in September 2021.

This season, the 25-year-old has 17 goals and five assists after 24 games. Of course, his football skills also tempt his coach to rave about him. “He just has individual quality that you can’t replace, that’s rare. How he finds space, his first contact before his big chance with the right, the ball is right in front of his left foot and he can finish,” said Marco Rose. Just after he came on in Wolfsburg you saw what the Frenchman means for his team’s game. It changed fundamentally. Nkunku’s presence on the pitch gives the whole squad the kind of confidence and, most importantly, ease it needs against a seemingly overwhelming opponent like City.

Guardiola is without Kevin De Bruyne

Especially since the team of star trainer Pep Guardiola is not exactly carefree at the moment. City has been chasing after the premier class for years in vain, most of the time the team was able to console itself with the domestic championship. But in the Premier League, Arsenal are currently calling the shots and City are stumbling from one embarrassment to the next. Last matchday there was only a 1-1 draw at newly promoted Nottingham. Even the eloquent Guardiola was puzzled and irritated: “I have no explanation. We don’t know the truth.” In addition, Guardiola has to do without Kevin De Bruyne and thus his most important player after Haaland.

All the better for Leipzig to be able to rely on a trump card like Nkunku, even if it is only for a short time. Because of the failures of the French and the still missing Dani Olmo, Leipzig’s offensive was briefly paralyzed at the beginning of February. Rose switched to a five-man chain, which offensively lacked a player and there was only one goal in two games. In addition, the series of 18 games without defeat tore. With Nkunku, the most important player of the past year and a half is now available again. “Fortunately he’s healthy again and he was in good form in training. Hopefully I can score a few more goals for him like before his injury,” said team-mate Dominik Szoboszlai.

For Nkunku himself, the game is another opportunity to show the Premier League what’s in store. A change of the national player to Chelsea is considered fixed, Leipzig will be compensated with around 65 million euros. After the London club’s big buys in winter, Nkunku will have to prove himself there again. With a gala against City he would at least earn a considerable credit. His coach trusts that: “He’s always good for the special moments in the game,” said Rose. “I’m very glad he’s back.”

The expected lineups

RB Leipzig: Blaswich – Henrichs, Orban, Gvardiol, Raum – Laimer, Schlager – Werner, Forsberg, Szoboszlai – Silva

Manchester City: Ederson – Walker, Aké, Dias – Rodri, Phillips – Mahrez, Silva, Gündogan, Grealish – Haaland

Schiedsrichter: Bold (Niederlande)