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“Liverpool can’t be underestimated” – Three things learnt from Liverpool 4-1 Hoffenheim

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Liverpool

Liverpool faced a tough draw when pitted against Bundesliga side Hoffenheim for their Champions League qualifier. A 2-1 victory in the first leg, Hoffenheim’s first home defeat in 15 months, was a good start, but Liverpool assured their place in the group stages with a superb display at Anfield.

Emre Can scored a brace and Mohamed Salah pounced on a shot off the woodwork to see Liverpool race to a 3-0 lead within 21 minutes, and even though the Germans fought back after some poor defending to score two, Roberto Firmino’s fourth goal put the tie to bed.

Here is what The Boot Room learnt from the game…

Liverpool cannot be underestimated

The Reds’ defensive troubles had led some to doubt whether a 2-1 first leg win would be enough to give them a comfortable cushion to progress into the group stages of the Champions League. However, their attacking play in the first 20 minutes was as good as you will find anywhere in Europe’s elite competition this season.

Their pressing, desire and pace in attack was simply too much for the Germans to handle and despite being arguably the toughest draw Liverpool could have faced in their qualifier, they made it look like easy work. There were signs of weaknesses defensively in the second half, but any side should underestimate Liverpool at their own peril.

Sadio Mane is Liverpool’s best player, forget Philippe Coutinho

With Philippe Coutinho now sat out through illness, alongside a back injury, as Barcelona continue to push to sign the Brazilian, Sadio Mane has showed his value to the side. Despite missing the start of pre-season due to a knee injury, the Senegalese star was the star of the show for the Reds.

His pace, direct running and creativity was a real threat and Hoffenheim didn’t quite know how to react. Setting up Emre Can and being involved in Mohamed Salah’s strike, everything came down the left hand side and through Mane.

Dejan Lovren is not the centre back that Liverpool need

The Croatian was woeful in a display where pretty much every other Liverpool player shined. Gifting possession to Hoffenheim in the build up to their first goal, he was then beaten in the air for them to score a second and keep a very faint hope of a comeback alive in the closing moments.

Jurgen Klopp has seemed to hint that he is not on the look out for another defender, but if Lovren struggles this much against Germany’s fourth best team, it’s a terrifying thought to imagine how he would handle the threat of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

Sam is a Southend United fan and student based in the South-West. He has previously worked for various publications, including FourFourTwo magazine and ITV. Sam also has an extensive knowledge of Spanish football and has previously lived and worked in Spain. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Hoffenheim

Liverpool vs Hoffenheim: Champions League match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction

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Liverpool

Liverpool head into the second leg of their Champions League qualifier against Hoffenheim knowing that anything other than defeat will see them through to the group stages of Europe’s elite competition. First, they must overcome their German opposition after a 2-1 win in the first leg of the qualifier.

Recent form

Liverpool have had a mixed start to the season but finally seem to be finding some rhythm with two wins on the bounce since an opening day draw with Watford. The weekend’s win over Crystal Palace was key in nature due to a rare clean sheet which will provide a major confidence boost at Anfield.

Hoffenheim also recorded a 1-0 win at the weekend as they saw off Werder Bremen in the first game of their domestic campaign. They will be out for revenge having lost their first home game in over 15 months to Jurgen Klopp’s side in the first leg last Tuesday night.

Likely line-ups

Liverpool are unlikely to make many changes from the side which won the first leg, with many key players having been rested at the weekend. Andrew Robertson’s very impressive debut could have earned him the chance to replace Alberto Moreno at left back, and James Milner could come into contention in place of Jordan Henderson in midfield.

Hoffenheim look set to field a very similar line-up to the first leg too, particularly after resting several key players for their win at the weekend. Haavard Nordtveit might hope to start despite scoring an own goal as a substitute in the first leg.

Team news

Philippe Coutinho is unavailable for Liverpool as he is yet to re-join first team training due to a back injury which has kept him out for the start of the season. Nathaniel Clyne has also been ruled out with ongoing fitness issues whilst Adam Lallana will do well to make it back to regular football before Christmas.

Florian Grillitsch’s foot injury is the only real doubt for the Germans, with Serge Gnabry likely to play despite illness which saw him rested for their opening game of the Bundesliga season at the weekend.

Match prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Hoffenheim (4-2 on aggregate)

Liverpool may struggle to keep clean sheets, and with the Germans going all out in attack they will be under intense pressure. However, the first leg showed that their attacking power was far superior and they should have enough to get through to the group stages.

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Champions League

“Trent Alexander-Arnold is the real deal” – Three things learnt from Hoffenheim 1-2 Liverpool

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Liverpool

Liverpool went into their Champions League qualifier knowing that they would be facing a side unbeaten at home since May 2016, but they broke that record and ended Hoffenheim’s unbeaten run in style.

With two crucial away goals, teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold opened the scoring with a brilliant free-kick from distance. James Milner added a second with a cross deflected off former West Ham man Haavard Nordtveit.

Both goals came after Simon Mignolet made a smart penalty save from Andrej Kramaric, but the Germans did get through eventually as Mark Uth’s late rifled shot gave the Champions League debutants a faint hope of a comeback at Anfield.

Here is what The Boot Room has learnt from the tie…

Trent Alexander-Arnold is the real deal

Stepping in to Nathaniel Clyne’s boots with the first choice missing the start of the season through injury, the teenager has proven himself to be a capable deputy. His first half display was one of real quality making him stand out from every other player on the field, despite it being his European debut.

The highlight was his 25 yard free-kick which looped over the wall and into the bottom corner of the net. For an 18-year-old to take a free-kick from that range in Europe away from home is a brave move, and he certainly produced the goods to justify his decision.

Jordan Henderson isn’t the solution

Deployed in the holding midfield role, the Reds’ captain once again looked unconvincing. Henderson appeared reluctant and nervous, perhaps because of his poor luck with injuries of late, but he did not seem comfortable in a deeper role where every sloppy mistake in possession proved costly.

James Milner replaced him early in the second half and had a far greater impact, with Emre Can looking far more at home in a holding midfield role. Henderson may wear the captains’ armband but he cannot assume that it is enough to protect his place in the starting line-up.

Liverpool are clear favourites to progress

With two away goals compared to Hoffenheim’s late goal, the Germans will need to score at least twice without reply in order to beat the Reds at Anfield. That is a big ask given that Liverpoool could really have been out of sight by the time that the full time whistle blew in Germany.

Liverpool will be cursing themselves for failing to keep a clean sheet or add another goal to their tally, given that they had the opportunities to do both, but will be confident ahead of the second leg next Wednesday.

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Hoffenheim

FSG Hoffenheim vs Liverpool: Champions League match preview, likely line-ups and score prediction

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Liverpool

The first leg of this Champions League qualifier will be Hoffenheim’s first game in European competition in their history up against a side who have won the competition five times. Liverpool will be making their return to the competition having missed out on European football at all last season, having made the Europa League final in 2015/16. It will be a sell out at the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena for what could be the biggest game in the German club’s history.

Recent form

Hoffenheim opened their season in the DfB Pokal on Saturday, overcoming third division side FC Rot-Weiss Erfurt by just one goal to nil. They had a strong pre-season, only losing to Genoa and Bayern Munich, and saw off English side Derby County with a 2-1 win in late July.

Liverpool enjoyed a positive pre-season campaign with their only defeat coming on penalties to Atletico Madrid in the Audi Cup final, but they got off to a disappointing start in the Premier League. Watford’s injury time equaliser pulled the Reds back down to earth with a 3-3 draw far from the ideal start to their domestic campaign.

Likely line-ups

There are a number of doubts in the Hoffenheim team, but former West Ham man Haavard Nordtveit looks set to start in a back three for the Germans as they retain the 3-4-2-1 system which served them well last season.

James Milner is likely to return in place of Alberto Moreno at left-back for Liverpool. That is likely to be the only change for the Reds despite a disappointing result at the weekend.

Team news

For the Germans, former Arsenal man Serge Gnabry is on loan from Bayern Munich but may miss out as he suffers from illness. Key forward Sandro Wagner and midfielder Florian Grillitsch both face a race against time as they fight to overcome similar foot problems in order to come into contention.

Philippe Coutinho has been left out with a back injury. Daniel Sturridge was hoping to make a return but has joined Coutinho in being left out of the squad to travel to Germany. Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana are both set to miss out again and will not make a return to action imminently.

Match prediction – Hoffenheim 1-1 Liverpool

It will be a tight clash between the two sides and Hoffenheim certainly won’t roll over, particularly in front of their home crowd. Key injuries to both sides may affect the scoreline, but Liverpool should come away with a decent result to set them up for the second leg.

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