Jesse Marsch admits his RB Leipzig team face their own mission impossible if they are to reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League after defeat at Paris Saint-Germain meant a third straight loss in Europe.
Leipzig briefly led in Paris on Tuesday before two second-half goals by superstar Lionel Messi consigned the German club to a defeat which keeps them bottom of their Champions League group.
“I don’t know if it’s impossible, but it’s very, very difficult,” Leipzig’s American coach Marsch replied when asked if his side can still reach the last 16.
“The Europa League must still be a goal, but we must also fight,” said Marsch as Leipzig need to bridge the four-point gap behind Brugge if they are to finish third in Group A and reach the Europa League.
A home defeat to PSG in the return leg in a fortnight’s time would kill off any Champions League last 16 hopes, but Leipzig are defiant.
“You have to look to win the remaining three games,” said defender Willi Orban.
“Without points, you can’t talk about progressing.”
Leipzig were handed a 6-3 thrashing at Manchester City in September, then crashed 2-1 at home to Brugge in their previous European games.
Yet they were much improved in Paris, where goals by Andre Silva and Nordi Mukiele at the Parc des Princes put Leipzig 2-1 up after Kylian Mbappe had given PSG an early lead.
Leipzig were punished as a loose Tyler Adams pass fell to the feet of Mbappe, who provided the assist for Messi to equalise.
“When we make mistakes like that,” Marsch complained, “Messi and Mbappe are ready.”
Leipzig were unfortunate to have a penalty awarded against them when Mohamed Simakan got a faint touch on Mbappe, who went down in the area and Messi drilled in the winning goal.
However, Leipzig proved they can live with top European teams.
“We almost have to deliver a perfect performance to have a chance,” said Marsch, “and what’s really outstanding is that we almost did that.”
Silva finished a superb move to claim his first Champions League goal, then Mukiele fired in a pin-point accurate cross from Angelino.
Yet too often Leipzig were “too naive, too young, too wild”, moaned midfielder Konrad Laimer.
Marsch also came to the same conclusion as the performance in Paris was “good, but not good enough”.