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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.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Arsenal

Exclusive: Havard Nordtveit – Hoffenheim move, Julian Nagelsmann and facing Liverpool

The Norwegian international discussed his time at Hoffenheim and his experience of English clubs.

Mathew Coull

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Havard Nordtveit
Photo: Getty Images

This summer West Ham United utility man Havard Nordtveit called time on his career with the Hammers, after just one season.

Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer he suffered from the London outfits’ own struggles, the change of stadium and being asked to play out of position at right-back.

After just 21 games for the Hammers, he headed back to Germany, where he had such success previously.

Now, speaking exclusively to The Boot Room, the Norwegian international has discussed working under an exciting new manager, facing Liverpool in the Champions League and coming through the ranks at Arsenal.

Plenty of teams in Germany would have wanted Nordtveit this summer.

He built a fine reputation in the Bundesliga during his time with Gladbach.

In fact, just hours before his July transfer was announced, he was being linked with Bundesliga rivals Hamburg.

In the end, it was Hoffenheim who snapped up the Norwegian. They had just finished fourth in the Bundesliga and it was a brilliant move for the 27-year-old.

(Photo by Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images)

But, as the former Hammer explained from Germany, it has been a topsy-turvy season:

“It went well in the first couple of months. But then my games weren’t as good as I was hoping for,” he admitted. “Then obviously I was not good enough for the team. I have been training hard and lately, it has been back to normal again.

“It’s good to be back in Germany and also I needed half a season to get to know the new coach and the new system. I am looking forward to the rest of the campaign.”

Nordtveit started the season playing in the Hoffenheim back three, but found himself out of the squad entirely from mid-December until last month.

Despite his problems, he did not sulk and simply worked hard to get back into the first-team:

“I am not that person,” proclaimed the Norwegian international. “I have been in that situation before with West Ham and Gladbach. It’s all about giving everything you can instead of moaning.

“You have to be positive,” he continued. “This is a team sport. You have to give your best for the team. If that means you are playing or not you know that you will get the chance in the end.”

This season Hoffenheim and Nordtveit were challenging for the Europa League.

However, at the start of the campaign, the Bundesliga outfit were in Champions League action for the first time in their history.

They took on Premier League side Liverpool in the qualifying rounds, with Nordtveit playing in both games.

Liverpool were not yet working under Mohamed Salah power but still proved far too strong for their German opponents over two legs:

“We knew they were strong. With their attacking forwards they are brutal. We had a very good home game. But in the end, it is a little better a feeling to know we went out of the play-offs against a team that reached the finals,” Nordtveit explained, with a sense of vindication for his club’s exit.

“What Klopp has done with the club is massive and also Salah, at this time, maybe is Europe’s best player.”

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Hoffenheim’s entrance to the Champions League was masterminded by their brilliant young coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 30-year-old is just a few years older than the Norwegian but has proven himself a top manager:

“He is fantastic,” said an excited Nordtveit. “He has great experience and his own style of play. It is a lot of tactics for every new player. Also when I came in then there was a lot of new things I had to learn quite quick.

“I am now starting to see that I learn something in myself to get into the rhythm that he wants. He is like a young, bright, football professor.”

He then gave him high praise, by comparing him to his former Gladbach boss Lucien Favre:

“He reminds me a little bit of Lucien Favre. He thinks about football 24/7. Small details, always, which can mean we take the three points.

“If I could compare him with someone it would be Lucien Favre, which is not a bad comparison.”

Nagelsmann’s clear ability has seen him linked with taking over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The Norwegian came through the ranks at Arsenal, but made it clear that he spent most of his time working with the current Arsenal assistant Steve Bould:

“I spoke with him of course but he was more observing the training. I was more with the reserve team.

“I was more with Steve Bould, the legend. He was quite important for me, a really good guy. I think he was one of the more important guys in Arsenal when I was there.”

Working under the Arsenal legend as a young defender must have been a big learning experience for the Hoffenheim player, who speaks highly of his time at Arsenal:

“I went quite early, about 16,17,” remembered the talented utility man. “It was perhaps the most important choice I did in my career because there I learnt how to do the basics in football.

“I did not play much with the first-team but the experience of training with the first-team and getting to know English football and a really high standard was really important to me.

(Photo by Nikolay Doychinov/Getty Images)

“From there, when I moved to Germany, I had the perfect base to have an OK career.

“Jack Wilshere was there before he finally broke through to the first-team. We had Wojciech Szczesny now second goalkeeper for Juventus. Many of the players are having big careers.  

“For me and a lot of the players we were quite lucky to have this opportunity.”

But Nordtveit still remembers his time fondly. He still follows the club, where good friend Granit Xhaka is also playing.

The Gunners have been unable to put a smile on the face of Nordtveit by picking up the Europa League trophy in Arsene Wenger’s final year.

However, with London outfit set to compete in the competition again next season, under a new manager, the two could well come face-to-face. 

That would be an opportunity Hoffenheim’s intrepid Norwegian would relish.

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Hoffenheim

“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.

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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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