Jurgen Klopp makes a return to Germany this evening as Liverpool take part in the first of what are two season defining matches for the club. You may feel that it is a bit early to be talking in such dramatic tones but a lot will be riding on Champions League group stage qualification.
The prize that worked so hard to get last season after their fourth place Premier League finish is in now in touching distance but they can ill afford to overlook the opposition that will be in front of them over the next couple of weeks as they are paired up with competition debutantes Hoffenheim.
Liverpool come into this game with off pitch matters once again dominating the headlines. Brazilian Philippe Coutinho who missed the 3-3 draw with Watford on Saturday is still absent due to the back injury that he is currently suffering from.
Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana are long term absentees and join Philippe Coutinho in not making the trip to Germany. Jurgen Klopp will have to decide whether to keep the same back four which started against Watford or whether or not to ring the changes.
James Milner was only used as a substitute at the weekend but could be drafted in at left back for Alberto Moreno who did not have the best start to the season, while another option in that position could be summer signing Andrew Robertson from Hull who will be looking to make his competitive debut.
As far as Liverpool boss Klopp is concerned that is the only news regarding the midfielder as the persistent rumours of an impending move to Barcelona fail to subside. For 90 minutes at least tonight the focus will return back onto the pitch as The Reds will look to earn a first leg advantage in this Champions League play-off clash.
Roberto Firmino is set to go up against his former club and will be looking to continue his decent start to the season. He scored and made one at Vicarage Road but it is fair to say that for all his attacking efforts, he was let done by his teammates in defence.
Liverpool showed their fatal flaw against Watford and that is dealing with set pieces, twice Marco Silva’s men were gifted goals as Klopp’s zonal marking system failed to have an effect. Then again maybe you could blame the players for refusing to get a head on the ball when it matters most.
If that proves to be the case tonight then Hoffenheim will be looking to take full advantage of that, especially as they scored the most goals from set pieces in the Bundesliga last season. Any aerial threat that Liverpool do not deal with, this German outfit will suitably punish.
Liverpool’s frustration in the transfer window continues, the fact that they have not really looked at a ‘plan b’ could prove to be a very costly strategy. Really they should have had a new centre back signed and already installed in the back four. Instead they are already playing catch up to their nearest rivals.
Hoffenheim are arguably one of the harder teams that Liverpool could have been paired with in the play-off draw but at the same time it is a team that Jurgen Klopp knows so it is probably a case of better the devil you know and all that.
With that in mind in regards to tonight’s outcome I think Liverpool will manage to come away with a first leg lead, not sure whether they will keep a clean sheet especially if they play like they did on Saturday. I’ll go for a 2-1 away win over Hoffenheim this evening.