MX23RW : Sunday, February 24 03:44:19
Aug 15, 2017 at 7.45pm UK at ​Rhein-Neckar-Arena
Attendance: 25,568
Uth (87')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Alexander-Arnold (35'), Nordtveit (74' og.)

Preview: Hoffenheim vs. Liverpool

Sports Mole previews the first leg of the Champions League playoff tie between Hoffenheim and Liverpool.

Liverpool head into the first leg of their Champions League playoff tie with Hoffenheim knowing that they will need to make improvements in defence after their 3-3 draw with Watford on Saturday afternoon.

Hoffenheim warmed up for the fixture with a narrow victory in the DFB Cup, but the Bundesliga outfit will need to play to their maximum level if they are to qualify for the group stages of European football's premier competition for the first time.


Hoffenheim's midfielder Nadiem Amiri celebrates scoring the 3-1 goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs Borussia Moenchengladbach in Sinsheim, southern Germany, on November 28, 201© Getty Images

Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann has enjoyed a fairytale rise to prominence with the 30-year-old's progression beginning in the Under-17 ranks, but the youngster - in managerial terms - now faces the biggest test of his short career.

For the first time in their existence, Hoffenheim no longer possess the tag of underdogs or outsiders and regardless of the difference in the size of these two clubs, any team who can come through a Bundesliga campaign with just four defeats deserves maximum respect.

None of those setbacks came against Bayern Munich, either, with Nagelsmann leading Achtzehn99 to four points from two matches against their nation's biggest club, and those two performances will ensure that Liverpool will not show any complacency in either match.

Key duo Niklas Sule and Sebastian Rudy have left for Bayern, but the arrival of Serge Gnabry is a considerable coup for the club and the former Arsenal wideman joins Andrej Kramaric and Sandro Wagner in what has developed into a formidable attack.

Last season, Wagner and former Leicester forward Kramaric contributed 30 goals between them in all competitions, and that total should only increase with Gnabry available to add quality to their supply line both in domestic and European action.

Jeremy Toljan - who has been linked with Tottenham Hotspur - is another to watch at the back, while Havard Nordtveit will be hoping to make an early impact after joining Hoffenheim from West Ham United.

Hoffenheim head into the match having remained unbeaten in front of their home supporters throughout the last campaign, while each of their four defeats on the road came by a 2-1 scoreline.

Recent form: W


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp before the match against Arsenal on March 4, 2017© SilverHub

When Liverpool conceded just the one goal in back-to-back friendly matches with Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid, expectations were raised regarding the solidity of the Merseyside outfit's defence but on Saturday, it took just eight minutes for their frailties to be exposed.

Watford did nothing special against Jurgen Klopp's side at Vicarage Road, but the Hornets could have scored more than the three goals which were registered and regardless of Klopp's insistence that a commanding centre-back will not necessarily make a difference, the former Borussia Dortmund chief will be desperate to get someone of Virgil van Dijk's stature through the door before the end of August.

Liverpool were not at their strongest due to Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner missing out on the flanks, but if the Reds are to have any ambitions to fight for the Premier League title, they must find a solution in their opening third of the pitch.

In attack, Sadio Mane and former Hoffenheim attacker Roberto Firmino already look up to speed and will pose a constant threat to the Hoffenheim goal on Tuesday evening, but Klopp will expect more from summer signing Mohamed Salah, whose end product must get better to fit into this team.

The Philippe Coutinho saga continues to play out in the background but while there is little sign of discontent in the dressing room, Liverpool will naturally miss their chief creator and a ruthless streak will have to be shown on their first ever visit to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena.

A score draw would not be the worst result against resolute foes but Liverpool may require some kind of advantage ahead of the second leg with Hoffenheim taking part in what are arguably the two biggest games in their history.

Recent form: D

Team News

Philippe Coutinho in action during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Southampton on May 7, 2017© SilverHub

Liverpool will again be without Coutinho, with the playmaker still suffering with a back injury and reports continuing to suggest that it will only be a matter of time until the Brazilian completes a transfer to Barcelona.

Klopp is unlikely to make many alterations from his starting lineup from the weekend, but Milner could return at left-back, or potentially on the opposite flank to add more experience to a backline which is reeling after shipping three poor goals

The likes of Andrew Robertson and Divock Origi will likely have to make do with a place on the substitutes' bench.

Hoffenheim will be at full strength for the game on Tuesday night after Wagner made a successful return from a minor injury at the weekend.

Hoffenheim possible starting lineup:
Baumann, Nordtveit, Vogt, Bicakcic, Polanski, Toljan, Gnabry, Amiri, Schulz, Kramaric, Wagner

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Mane, Firmino

Head To Head

The two teams will be meeting in a competitive contest for the first time, but Liverpool are no strangers to facing German opposition in Europe.

In 40 matches, Liverpool have registered 19 wins and suffered just seven defeats, with their most recent meeting against a Bundesliga team coming when they completed a memorable comeback against Dortmund to progress through to the 2015-16 Europa League semi-finals.

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We say: Hoffenheim 2-3 Liverpool

After losing just four times in the league last season, Hoffenheim could prove difficult to beat in front of their home fans, but Liverpool are well suited to playing away from home and their pace in the final third may decide this tie. This could be a thriller.

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Reds boss Jurgen Klopp appears ahead of the Premier League game between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur on February 11, 2017
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