The speculation surrounding Ralph Hasenhüttl's future continues but RB Leipzig are fully focused on the visit of Marseille in the Europa League. With offensive talent on both sides, it promises to be an exciting affair.
Having disposed of Napoli and Zenit St Petersburg, Leipzig now welcome French giants Olympique Marseille in the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal - but without the injured Stefan llsanker and suspended captain Willi Orban.
For coach Ralph Hasenhüttl, the subject of interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in recent weeks, it's a chance to put any speculation surrounding his future aside and take a step towards the semifinal.
“I had good talks with the club hierarchy this week," he said last week. "After our conversation both sides can imagine that we will work together beyond 2019."
Sporting director Ralf Rangnick agreed, saying ahead of Thursday's game: "We'll continue our discussions in the coming weeks to see if we can find common ground to continue working together."
"If other clubs are looking for a coach, then that's their problem."
Marseille: 'We're going to attack'
If the games against Napoli and St Petersburg in previous rounds were more cautious affairs, the quarterfinal promises to offer a feast of attacking football from both teams.
Marseille are currently third in Ligue 1 but, without defender Adil Rami and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the likes of Emil Forsberg, Timo Werner, Naby Keita and Frenchman Jean-Kevin Augustin, who are all fit to start for the Red Bull backed team.
But the Phocéens boast their own attacking talents too and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta has already announced: "We're going to attack, too."
Dimitri Payet was one of the stars of the 2016 European Championships in France and is deadly from range and from dead balls, while left winger Lucas Ocampos has already scored four goals and created one more in this season's Europa League.
On the opposite flank, Florian Thauvin has been directly involved in 27 goals in 29 league appearances – but he is a doubt after suffering from a thigh strain.
In midfielder Luiz Gustavo, the Marseille team also contains a familiar face to Bundesliga fans – and to Ralf Rangnick in particular. It was Rangnick who brought the Brazilian to Hoffenheim in 2007, two years before RB Leipzig had even been created.
"Obviously I know Luiz well and I'm looking forward to seeing him again," said Rangnick. "But that's it – after that we want to progress to the next round."
'I love it when the big games arrive'
After rather pitiful attendances in the previous round (less than 20,000 fans turned up to the home leg against Zenit while an official trip to the away game in Russia was cancelled due to lack of interest), the competition seems to have finally caught the public's imagination, and 30,000 tickets have already been sold.
"I love it when the big games arrive," said RB playmaker Forsberg. "Now the pressure is building and we have to prove we can handle it. We want to achieve something great."
Europa League quarterfinal ties:
RB Leipzig vs. Olympique Marseille
Lazio vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Arsenal vs. CSKA Moscow
Atletico Madrid vs. Sporting Lisbon
mf/mp (dpa, SID)