TSG Hoffenheim V Liverpool, Champions League qualifier first leg, Rhein-Neckar Arena, Tuesday 15th August
It’s the last Champions League qualifying round before the group stages and the draw has thrown up a cracking tie in the shape of TSG Hoffenheim against Liverpool – the fourth-placed team in the Bundesliga last season against the fourth-placed team in the Premier League. Two teams who, it could be argued, both deserve to feature in those groups stages.
Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp will know his compatriots well, and it is fair to say Hoffenheim are the fairy-tale story of German, if not European football. It was only ten years ago that they played their first professional season, and this will be their first ever European campaign so an anti-climactic qualifying-round elimination would be a crying shame, but that is the luck of the draw as they say.
In finishing fourth Hoffenheim only lost four games in the league in the whole of last season, which was three less than second-placed RB Leipzig and in fact was only bettered by champions Bayern Munich. As so often is the case in Germany, Bayern Munich came knocking at another successful club’s door in the summer and as a result of that Hoffenheim have lost both Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle to the German champions which will weaken the team considerably – both of them defensive rocks in the club’s recent successes. But coach Julian Nagelsmann, who is a story in himself in that when he was appointed two years ago at the age of 28 he became the youngest coach in German football history, remains one of the brightest young coaches on the continent and the collective spirit forged at the club is greater than the sum of its parts. He has brought in Håvard Nordtveit from West Ham and a number of other promising sigbnings, including Serge Gnabry on loan, so Hoffenheim will be hoping to hit the ground running in what will be the biggest game in the club’s history against Liverpool on Tuesday night European time.
Five-time European champions Liverpool are a name synonymous with the continent’s premier club competition. The Reds of course finished fourth last season in the Premier League but have been relatively quiet on the transfer front; they have brought in Mohamed Salah who’s been their biggest signing so far, while Andrew Robertson has arrived from Hull and Dominic Solanke from champions Chelsea. However, the story at Anfield remains whether Philippe Coutinho will be staying or leaving, with Barcelona repeatedly calling for the Brazilian’s services. He’s out with a back injury anyway so wouldn’t play in this game whatever happens. He’s joined on the sidelines by Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge, which is a lot of missing experience for Klopp to deal with.
Focusing now on the betting ahead of this game, Hoffenheim were exceptional at times last season – their home form also being a cause for celebration as the team went undefeated at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, defeating the likes of Bayern along the way. They are an extremely difficult team to beat, and as we saw in Liverpool’s 3-3 draw against Watford in their opening Premier League game, The Reds are scintillating going forward but are fragile at the back. And that’s why backing Hoffenheim to win this game looks really good business. This is a two-legged affair so we are not saying that Liverpool are going to get eliminated – of course having the second game at Anfield is a big advantage for them – but backing Hoffenheim to win this first game looks sensible. The odds there are currently best at 3.12 with Marathonbet.
Going Over 2.5 goals also seems logical. Liverpool’s attacking threat has already been mentioned but so have their defensive weaknesses. Hoffenheim proved capable of scoring goals last season (64 goals scored was the fourth best record in the league), so going over 2.5 goals is advisable at current odds of 1.85, also with Marathonbet. And finally selecting ‘Yes’ on Both Teams to Score will secure odds of 1.67 with 10bet.
Two fantastic matches to look forward to then between these sides, but losing one of them at this stage of the competition seems harsh. But that is the way it goes in the cut-throat world of top European football, and all we as supporters can do is sit back and enjoy the fun as TSG Hoffenheim and Liverpool commence battle.