Better build-up play
When Liverpool get into the final third, they are frightening. A front three of Sadio Mané, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino possesses intelligence, quality and pace. However, the build up play into the final third must be better, with Jurgen Klopp far too reliant on his gegenpressing as the primary creator. With Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana out, the Reds lack a player who can provide a constant link between the midfield and the attacking third.
Klopp always deploys a midfield three in the centre, but Jordan Henderson is the only one of those players who always makes himself an option to pass to, and looks to pass through the lines. Yet, even Henderson is passing the ball less, and worse than last season. He ended the match against Watford with an extremely disappointing 69% pass accuracy.
Gini Wijnaldum ahead of him is effective when breaking into an oppositions box and shows good energy, however rarely shows himself to be available for the ball and often lets the game pass him by. Against Crystal Palace at the weekend, Wijnaldum made only 28 passes with an 82% success rate in his 70 minutes. That is an extraordinarily low number for a central midfielder playing in a side which made over 700 passes.
Liverpool must find a way to progress the ball more effectively, especially while Coutinho and Lallana are unavailable.
Another exceptional Sadio Mané performance
Mané still does not get the praise and adulation he deserves. The forward is one of the best wide-men in the world and is devastating. Mané is unplayable on his day, which is often and is Liverpool’s most important player, even more so than Philippe Coutinho.
Mané has the skill, pace and energy to go inside and outside his opponent, showing high quality when presented with a chance at goal, or looking to set up his teammates.
The Senegalese international can score from the left-hand side, right-hand side and centre of the pitch, with every type of finish in his locker. Mané has the capabilities to score well over 20 goals this season, whilst consistently creating chances and assists. He should be recognised as world class, and it’s only a matter of time before he is.
In theory, this tie should be over. Liverpool are taking a 2-1 lead with them to Anfield, with the two away-goal cushion. If Liverpool manages the game as they should, it will be plain sailing into the Champions League group stage.
However, the Reds often give chances to the opposition and struggle to play any other way than their high, ball-orientated pressing. It sees them as extremely dangerous in attack but vulnerable at the back.
They must improve their defensive striker and not allow the Hoffenheim players anytime and space in front of their defence. Klopp should set his team up to take any sting out of the game, and not allow Hoffenheim any hope of a miraculous come back.
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