Liverpool vs Hoffenheim – Wednesday 19:45BST/20:45CET – Anfield, Liverpool.
Chris Williams – Anfield, Liverpool
With both sides registering narrow victories over the weekend, and Liverpool only holding a slender advantage—Klopp and Nagelsmann will be equally as confident of progressing into the group stages of this competition. Hoffenheim will be grateful of a late goal Tuesday which keeps them in touching distance, whilst Liverpool have two important away goals registered. Anfield is renowned for explosive action on a European night, will we be treated to another famous fixture under the lights?
After the furore of the last few weeks, Liverpool will be glad to concentrate on matters around their on-field play. Phillipe Coutinho will now stay at Liverpool, and the Reds won a close battle Saturday to finally beat Crystal Palace at home — after almost four years. Jürgen Klopp spoke at today’s press conference on the Coutinho situation: “Coutinho could not play even if he was well (he’s ill) he’s not trained enough to play tomorrow, I can’t say any more than that”. The Liverpool manager brought matters back to the pitch quickly: “Everyone now knows the quality of Hoffenheim, it is half time, we will adjust in the right direction. This game needs to be better”. Klopp evidently concerned with the opportunities afforded to Hoffenheim last Tuesday, he will be more than aware that the score could quite easily have been 2:2 or even 3:3.
Julian Nagelsmann says he won’t be overawed by the Anfield atmosphere and that his Hoffenheim players are looking forward to the experience. The young German coach gave a vivid account of his first Champions League memory, watching (his then favourite team) Bayern München lose the 1999 final to Manchester United in added time: “My father was a Gladbach supporter, he said some very memorable things to me that night” Nagelsmann remarked. Resting numerous players on Saturday, Hoffenheim had to be patient in their build up eventually securing a late win against a resolute Bremen. Asked about the Matchday 1 victory and whether he was confident the success could be repeated at Anfield Nagelsmann said – “I am convinced that we can retain our patience and push for a goal while avoiding counter attacks, we have both discipline and patience”. It was evident that confidence runs deep within this Hoffenheim side — as opening training began it was a relaxed Nagelsmann that posed for pictures in the dugout and juggled the ball on the pitch for the waiting press, before eventually being joined by his squad to go through last minute preparations on the famous Anfield pitch.
Liverpool vs Hoffenheim – Players to look out for:
Sadio Mané #19 – Liverpool
The 25-year-old Senegalese winger has been a revelation for the Reds since his arrival from Southampton last summer. His departure to the African Cup of Nations coincided with the end of Liverpool’s title challenge, an indication of his worth to Jürgen Klopp’s side. A skilful player, full of flair — his early season performances against both Watford and Crystal Place have been instrumental in the Red’s first season goals. Mané frightens the opposition with his speed and his dribbling ability, coupled with his directional changes it often makes him hot to handle for any defence. Scoring the winner on the weekend against Crystal Palace the attacker is in the best form he could be.
Sandro Wagner #14 – Hoffenheim
The 29-year-old striker was rested for the weekend’s fixture against Werder Bremen. Hoffenheim’s top scorer last season he notched 12 goals in 33 games, earning him a summer call up to the national side. Subsequently, he played a key role in the German’s securing their first Confederations Cup. Always confident in his ability, the attacker will look to drive at the Liverpool back four. Strong in the air he will be a test for a Liverpool defence that has often come unstuck from set plays and aerial balls. Linking up well with Andrej Kramaric, Hoffenheim have all the attributes to cause a potential shock on Wednesday night — if they are to achieve this Wagner will need to be at his very best.
Liverpool vs Hoffenheim – Match Stats
- Liverpool have yet to lose in 14 home meetings with German opponents: W11 D3 L0
- This is Hoffenheim’s first European tie away from home
- After a year’s absence from European competition, Liverpool qualified for the play-offs by coming fourth in last season’s Premier League
- Fourth place in the 2016/17 Bundesliga was the south-west German club’s best-ever league finish
- Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino was at Hoffenheim between 2011 and 2015, scoring 38 goals in 140 league games
Prediction: Liverpool vs Hoffenheim – 2:1
Liverpool vs Hoffenheim – Possible Lineups
Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Robertson; Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino
Coach: Jürgen Klopp
Baumann; Bicakcic, Vogt, Hubner; Kaderabek, Rupp, Demirbay, Zuber; Gnabry, Kramaric, Wagner
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann
Chris Williams is a freelance European football journalist. Covering the Bundesliga, Premier League and both of UEFA’s European club competitions — he can be found somewhere between the Kop and Yellow Wall. Published in both local and international publications, such as the Liverpool Echo and Sport Bild, he also contributes to television and radio across the United Kingdom. A member of the UK’s Sports Journalist Association and the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) he lives and breathes football. Follow Chris Williams on Twitter @Chris78Williams