Liverpool will play one of the most important matches of their season on Tuesday, as they travel to Germany to take on Hoffenheim in a UEFA Champions League qualifier.
The Reds are favoured to advance to Europe’s top club competition, but one poor showing in Baden-Wurttemberg could bring their bid to a premature end. Hoffenheim finished last year’s Bundesliga campaign just two points behind Borussia Dortmund, and after a good summer, the Germans should feel confident about their chances.
Here’s everything you need to know about the match.
Date: Wednesday, August 15
Time: 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Sinsheim
TV Info: BT Sport 2 (UK), Fox Sports 1 (U.S.)
Live Stream: LIVE US TV
Liverpool’s 22-man squad for the first leg did not include Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, two major components of the team’s attack. Both missed the Reds’ Premier League opener against Watford through injury, although there are strong indications Coutinho’s absence also has to do with his possible transfer to Barcelona.
Hoffenheim enter the play-off match with no major injury concerns. Manager Julian Nagelsmann was able to rotate his squad for the DFB-Pokal win over Rot-Weiss Erfurt, the club’s first competitive match of the season.
Backed by the financial might of Dietmar Hopp, a software mogul and one-time Hoffenheim player, the club has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of German football since the turn of the century.
Achtzehn99 stand out for their attractive football and youthful squad bursting with talent, perhaps best illustrated by their 30-year-old manager. Nagelsmann became team boss at the age of 28 but shocked everyone with his mature approach and immediate success.
He’s already a respected figure in German football who employs a fearless approach to the game. That fearlessness is also visible off the pitch―he gladly weighed in on the Ousmane Dembele transfer saga, for example, per DW Sports:
Liverpool fans can expect an attacking approach from Hoffenheim, who won’t alter their style of play just because they’re facing a bigger team. Germany internationals like Kerim Demirbay and Sandro Wagner, as well as the on-loan Serge Gnabry, make up a dangerous front capable of scoring at any time.
Unlike the Reds, the hosts didn’t have to dig deep over the weekend―Hoffenheim are healthy and rested, while Liverpool come into the fixture with several key injuries and the marathon match against Watford only just in the rear-view mirror.
Liverpool have the edge in talent, but Watford badly exposed their defensive limitations, and Hoffenheim undoubtedly have more quality in the attacking third than the Hornets.
They also happen to be exceptionally good at set pieces, a particular area of weakness for the Reds. The Anfield Wrap were anything but happy when they found out:
There should be plenty of goals in this tie, with two open teams giving it their all.
Prediction: Hoffenheim 2-1 Liverpool