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Bring on Monaco, boasts Leipzig coach

Berlin (AFP) – RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl says his side proved they are ready for their Champions League debut at home to Monaco on Wednesday after producing two stunning goals in the Bundesliga.

Leipzig earned a 2-0 win at Hamburg on Friday after Liverpool-bound Naby Keita unleashed a fierce drive from outside the area, which hit the top right-hand corner from 20 metres, following a quickly-taken free kick.

Fleet-footed German international striker Timo Werner then grabbed his fifth goal in four games for club and country by holding off two defenders and scoring to cap a powerful run.

“It almost unfair on the opposition when he runs with speed like that,” quipped Hasenhuettl after Werner’s stunning second-half effort.

Having worn down the Hamburg defence, Leipzig earned their second straight win in Germany’s top-flight to set themselves up for the reigning French champions.

“We can now mix up our game, we have many different faces and will pick the necessary one,” said Hasenhuettl with one eye on Monaco.

“We’re looking forward to the game, because it is a reward for last season.”

– Keita concerns –

Hasenhuettl is concerned about Keita, who will join Liverpool for 70 million euros ($84.3m) next season, after the Guinea midfielder picked up a knock in Hamburg.

“I hope it’s not so bad,” said Hasenhuettl.

RB Leipzig are not a conventional club with a long history.

They were founded in 2009 when energy drinks giants Red Bull bought a licence from a fifth-division club near Leipzig and four promotions in seven years took them to Germany’s top flight.

A record run of 13 matches unbeaten at the start of their first Bundesliga season heralded Leipzig’s arrival in 2016/17 and they finished second to Bayern Munich on their debut year in Germany’s top flight.

The club’s full name is RasenBallsport Leipzig — the moniker is a made-up German word meaning “grass-ball sport” because the German Football League (DFL) forbids using a sponsor’s name in a club’s title.

Despite having a huge budget, Hasenhuettl and Leipzig’s director of sport Ralf Rangnick only recruit players in their early 20s, whose talent they can nurture, and have no interest in buying established stars.

A good example is Werner, who was bought for 10 million euros when Stuttgart were relegated in 2015/16.

The 21-year-old scored 21 league goals last season to propel him into the Germany team, which won the Confederations Cup in July and he netted twice in last Monday’s 6-0 rout of Norway in a World Cup qualifier.

But for now, Leipzig are focused on hosting Monaco, who reached the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League.

“It’s going to be an emotional highlight,” said Leipzig captain Willi Orban.

“Many of us have not yet played in a Champions League game before.”

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