Liverpool head to Germany to face Hoffenheim on Tuesday at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, in the first-leg of their vital Champions League playoff.
Hoffenheim vs. Liverpool
Tuesday, August 15, 2017 – 7:45pm (BST)
Champions League playoff
The last-gasp equaliser that robbed Liverpool of two points epitomised the defensive woes that have dogged them in recent years, and supporters vented their fury at the final whistle.
With the Philippe Coutinho saga rumbling on and key transfer targets still not signed, a negative result in Germany on Tuesday does not bear thinking about.
Liverpool have only been in the Champions League group stages once since 2009/10 – the ill-fated 2014/15 campaign under Brendan Rodgers – and they must ensure that they don’t fall at the final hurdle over these next two games.
Hoffenheim are a talented side led by 30-year-old manager Julian Nagelsmann, and if Jurgen Klopp‘s side aren’t at the races, they will punished.
The Bundesliga outfit finished fourth in the league last season, and any Liverpool supporters taking them lightly could be in for a nasty shock.
Still, the Reds are the clear favourites to progress, and if they eradicate their continued issues at the back, the attacking brilliance at their disposal will get them through a tricky test.
Expect a nervy night in Hoffenheim.
Coutinho is once again unavailable for Liverpool, with his supposed back injury preventing him from featuring against Nagelsmann’s men.
Daniel Sturridge is another who misses out, with the 27-year-old not making the cut despite Klopp speaking positively about his progress last week.
Long-term absentee Adam Lallana will be out until the autumn, with he and Coutinho’s absence felt at Vicarage Road at the weekend.
Hoffenheim – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 1-0 vs. Erfurt
Won 3-0 vs. Bologna
Won 2-1 vs. Derby County
Won 4-2 vs. Standard Liege
Drew 0-0 vs. Augsburg
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Drew 3-3 vs. Watford
Won 3-1 vs. Athletic Bilbao
Drew 1-1 vs. Atletico Madrid (lost 5-4 on penalties)
Won 3-0 vs. Bayern Munich
Won 3-0 vs. Hertha Berlin
Klopp’s & Henderson’s view
Both Klopp and captain Jordan Henderson attended Monday’s press conference, with the Liverpool captain saying that, despite his brilliance, Coutinho’s future is far less important than on-pitch matters:
“It’s obviously a difficult situation for Phil. Whatever I say won’t help the situation,” he said.
“As players, we’re fully focused on the job at hand and the game. You expect things like this to happen in transfer windows, players going, players coming in.
“But you’ve got to focus on what’s important and that’s obviously the game tomorrow. It shouldn’t have any effect at all.
“If you ask everyone they want Phil to stay because he’s a world-class player.”
TV & Live Blog Info
The match is live on BT Sport 2 from 7pm (BST), with kick-off at 7:45pm.
Our matchday live blog will be in full flow as always, with Ben Twelves in the chair to talk you through all of the action. That also gets underway at 7pm.