RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuttl has backed teenage defenders Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate to cope with Marseille’s attack in the absence of vice-captain Willi Orban.
Bundesliga side Leipzig face the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against the French club on Thursday evening without influential centre-back Orban due to suspension.
Despite their tender ages, 19-year-old Upamecano and 18-year-old Konate have enjoyed plenty of first-team experience this season and Hasenhuttl is confident the French duo can handle the occasion.
“Willi Orban has a different defensive style and is important for us, but I have faith in Dayot and Ibrahima,” said Hasenhuttl at his pre-match press conference, according to the club’s Twitter account.
“Who knows, maybe we’ll keep our first clean sheet in Europe.
“I’m obviously delighted with Konate and Upamecano’s development.
“They have made huge strides this past year and gained valuable experience.”
He added: “Marseille are a very strong side, who are organised at the back and well drilled.
“I’m expecting a very exciting game.”
The Germans, currently fourth in the Bundesliga, will also be without ineligible Everton loanee Ademola Lookman and knee-injury victims Marcel Halstenberg and Stefan Ilsanker.
France Under-20 international Konate, signed from Sochaux last summer, believes Leipzig must take a positive result into next week’s second leg.
“I’ve played against Marseille before. We know just how difficult a game it will be tomorrow,” said Konate.
“They are a quality side with many great players like Luiz Gustavo and Dimitri Payet, who have a lot of experience.
“We need to make the most of the home leg, as it won’t be easy to get a result in Marseille.
“We’ll have the fans on our side tomorrow, and they will give us a push.”
Marseille also have defensive selection concerns for the European clash.
The Ligue 1 side travel to the Red Bull Arena without key players Steven Mandanda and Adil Rami after they sustained injuries during the weekend win at Dijon.
Goalkeeper Mandanda is expected to miss four to six weeks with a thigh muscle problem, while fellow France international Rami has torn his left calf and will be out for at least 10 days.
Portuguese centre-back Rolando, who has been struggling with an Achilles problem, has also been left out of Rudi Garcia’s squad for the game, along with forward Florian Thauvin, who has a thigh issue.
Coach Garcia insists his team are the underdogs going into the two-legged tie.
“On the history of the two clubs, Marseille would be rather favourite. On the forces involved, we do not forget that Leipzig played the Champions League this season, not the Europa League,” said Garcia, according to L’Equipe.
“They finished second in the (German) championship last year, they were in the (Champions League) pool of Monaco, and Monaco did not beat them in their two games.
“They released for me the favourite of the competition (the Europa League), Napoli (in the round of 32).
“I will stop there. It is a team with a lot of good players, good young people, with a lot of athletic qualities.”