19:45 (CEST), Wednesday 23rd August, Anfield (Liverpool, England) BT Sport 2
Premier League side Liverpool hold all the cards heading into Wednesday nights second leg at Anfield. Hoffenheim were extremely impressive and if it wasn’t for poor finishing in front of goal, they might be heading to Liverpool with a deserved lead. However, as it stands Liverpool have a 2-1 lead with visitors Hoffenheim needing to win 2-0 to secure a place in the Champions League. A 1-0 result won’t cut it due to the away goal rule.
Trent Alexander Arnold stole the show in Sinsheim with a man of the match performance, scoring the opening goal with a delightful free kick to put Liverpool in front. James Milner’s cross was deflected in by Håvard Nordtveit, but Hoffenheim did salvage something with a goal from Mark Uth 3 minutes from time to see the tie poised for a Wednesday night showdown.
Last Time Out
Liverpool 1-0 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
Liverpool dominated their opponents Crystal Palace in the second week of the Premier League but keeper Wayne Hennessey was on top form keeping Frank De Boer’s side. The Welsh keeper made 12 saves to thwart Liverpool in attack as Jürgen Klopp’s side put 23 shots on goal with 13 hitting the target.
The hosts wouldn’t get their reward until 73 minutes when Dominic Solanke dispossessed Luka Milivojevic and set up Sadio Mane for his 2nd goal of the Premier League season to seal Liverpool all three points.
Hoffenheim 1-0 Werder Bremen (Bundesliga)
Hoffenheim were pressed all the way by Werder Bremen in the clubs Bundesliga opener on Saturday. The hosts had an abundance of possession at 64%, but like in midweek couldn’t translate their dominance into goals. Bremen were stubborn in defence and produced a good account for themselves, but on 84 minutes Hoffenheim found their winner.
Ádám Szalai with the critical pass and Andrej Kramarić with an excellent finish into the top left corner. Like on Tuesday night vs Liverpool, poor finishing was a factor against Bremen and if they are unable to hit the target, they will be playing Europa League football instead of the glory that comes with the Champions League.
Jürgen Klopp will be looking to manage his side into the Champions League for the first time since the 2014/15 season. Trent Alexander-Arnold put in a man of the match performance in the first league and although he was rested on the weekend in Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, there is a good chance he will be back in the starting XI come Wednesday.
New left back Andrew Robertson made his first start since signing from Hull and produced a good performance, expect him to start ahead of Alberto Moreno.
Hoffenheim will need a stellar performance to secure an unlikely progression to the group stage. We expect Nagelsmann to play a 3-5-2 with Kerem Demirbay playing as the holding midfielder. Andrej Kramarić and Serge Gnabry both came off the bench against Werder Bremen but should both start.
Key Battle: Sadio Mane vs Kerem Demirbay
Two pivotal players in this contest will be Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Hoffenheim’s Kerem Demirbay. There is no doubting that Mane is Liverpool’s most important player and has been for some time. This season Mane has 2 goals and an assist to his name as Liverpool are currently on 4 points behind the likes of Manchester United and the surprise packets Huddersfield Town.
With Sebastian Rudy leaving for Bayern, Kerem Demirbay looks likely to play in a deeper role in midfield this year. Demirbay is an excellent box-to-box midfielder who can do pretty much anything, excellent by foot and a set-piece wizard which will come in handy once again on Wednesday. Can Demirbay’s delivery’s and general play be rewarded by finishing from Sandro Wagner and Andrej Kramarić?
It feels like we talk about it every weekend. Liverpool and set-pieces. In their last contest against Hoffenheim, Liverpool were vulnerable at set-pieces and its fair to say they don’t know whether to man mark or to play zonal.
Sandro Wagner provides plenty of height, whilst Andrej Kramarić is a fox in the box striker who can cause plenty of issues anywhere in the area. Can Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren work together to help keep Hoffenheim off the scoresheet?
Julian Nagelsmann is a tactical genius and as we saw in the first leg, Hoffenheim can play in a variety of ways and it caused Liverpool plenty of issues. At the start of the match, Hoffenheim played a 3-4-2-1 with Serge Gnabry leading the line whilst Andrej Kramarić and Sandro Wagner played in behind. We also saw this interchangeable with Hoffenheim changing into a 3-5-2 with Kramarić dropping into midfield and Wagner coming up to join Gnabry. We will see this prominently on Wednesday night.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Hoffenheim (4-1 on aggregate)
With Hoffenheim needing to go for broke, Liverpool will have plenty of opportunities to pepper Oliver Baumann’s goal. Julian Nagelsmann’s side will need to keep their shape otherwise it will be hard for Hoffenheim to keep a strong Liverpool out. I expect Sadio Mane to be a match winner as Liverpool can put Hoffenheim aside and book their place in the Champions League.
Can Hoffenheim surprise the masses by securing a place in the Champions League and Liverpool’s expense? Let us know in the comments section below
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