Liverpool face 1899 Hoffenheim, Roberto Firmino’s former club, in the first leg of the Champions League play-off round on Tuesday, off the back of a shock 3-3 draw with Watford at the weekend.
They will hope to bounce back quickly in what was a weekend of surprising results, with Chelsea losing at home to Burnley and goals flying in up and down the country.
The German side will prove to be a tough test having finished just behind Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga last season, with several of their squad including Serge Gnabry, on-loan from Bayern Munich, upcoming German stars. He, and other Hoffenheim players, were part of the team that won the European Championships at under-21 level this summer.
This is the first time since 2014 that Liverpool will compete in the Champions League, whilst for Hoffenheim, it is their first time ever in European competition of any kind. Many in Germany are dubbing it the biggest game in the club’s history.
The Reds will need to dramatically improve their defending, especially from set-pieces, with any repeat of the horrific and calamitous showing at Vicarage Road potentially able to knock them out of a competition they worked so hard to get into before it has even started.
Adam Lallana remains sidelined, and Philippe Coutinho is still out with a sore back, meaning the midfield three is likely to stay the same. Daniel Sturridge will return at the weekend, but the Champions League play-off comes too soon. He had originally been expected to be in the squad, but was left behind to recover.
Marko Grujic is the only potential change that could happen in the midfield should Emre Can, who had a shorter pre-season than most after the Confederations Cup, be unable to play two matches in such quick succession.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, who did well at Watford, is likely to retain his place and earn a European debut, with Nathaniel Clyne still not fit, although Joe Gomez is another possibility.
Despite Liverpool never having played Hoffenheim before, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says his side know exactly what they will come up against. He sent his two assistants, Zeljko Buvac and Peter Krawietz, to watch Hoffenheim play in pre-season, and Liverpool are well-prepared.
“They are strong. We are strong. That’s the way football should be. Both have big aims,” he said.
“It is a big test. Over the two games, if we win we will have qualified for the Champions League, which was the aim last season”.
An inevitable topic of conversation was also want-away midfielder Philippe Coutinho.
“Nothing has changed. Not on one side or the other side. He’s not available for us at the moment (through injury). That’s the main issue,” Klopp said.
On the transfer window in general, he added, “It would have helped us (if the window shut when the season started). The whole market has changed this year”.
Young, up-and-coming manager Julian Nagelsmann is now the in-thing in Germany, just as Klopp was himself when he was coming through.
“I’m pleased for my agent because I’m the old horse in the stable and there is a young horse now in Nagelsmann,” he joked.
A score-draw would be a very good result for Liverpool, but a decent defensive display is something everyone will be looking out for. The German side scored more goals from set-pieces than any other in the Bundesliga last season, so rectifying that chink in the Reds armour quickly could be key.
Failure to defend properly could see them miss out on the group stage, and head into the Europa League, which would be an absolute hammer-blow, especially so early in the new campaign.
WHEN DOES THE GAME KICK OFF?
The match starts at 19:45 BST and is live on BT Sport in the UK.
WHO IS THE REFEREE?
Bjorn Kuipers – the Dutch official is well-known on the Champions League circuit, and is a vastly experienced referee.
He has never taken charge of 1899 Hoffenheim before, but has never overseen Liverpool when they have lost, over four different occasions. His last Liverpool game was in December 2014, when he harshly sent off Lazar Markovic in a 1-1 draw with Mo Salah’s former club, FC Basel.
The German side’s manager, Julian Nagelsmann, is just nine months older than Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana at 30 years old, and is younger than the likes of James Milner and Ragnar Klavan. He got his first job as a coach at the age of 28.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Salah
1899 Hoffenheim: Kobel; Nordveidt, Vogt, Bicakcic; Toljan, Demirbay, Amiri, Gnabry, Zuber; Kramaric, Wagner
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