Five teams booked their place in the Champions League group stages last night and tonight the 32 names that will make up that phase of the competition will be complete as the remaining play-off 2nd leg ties will take place. Liverpool are hoping to be in that final five and tonight they play host to Hoffenheim at Anfield.
The tie is evenly poised after last week’s 1st leg, a trip to Germany for the Merseyside outfit was a profitable one as they came back home with a 2-1 victory under their belts. An away win in Europe is always welcome but it could have been a lot more comfortable had they not conceded late on.
By the same token though the story could have been a lot different had Simon Mignolet not saved an early penalty from Andrej Kamaric – the former Leicester man saw his poor effort saved after just 11 minutes as Jurgen Klopp used his get out of jail free card, very early on.
Dejan Lovren will no doubt have teammate Mignolet to thank for sparing his blushes, after his decision to go to ground and haul down Serge Gnabry was ill advised and saw the referee with not other option but to point to the spot.
Liverpool did however survive the early scare and would go on to take build 2-0 advantage, one that they thought they would be taking to Anfield for tonight’s return but Mark Uth’s late goal has just planted a seed of doubt into Liverpool’s qualification prospects.
The Hoffenheim goal does not change all that much in terms of the landscape of the game, they still have to score twice tonight but at least if Liverpool had a clean sheet to their name last week then the reverse would only have taken the game to extra time.
Now though should Hoffenheim score twice without reply it will be they that edge through by an aggregate scoreline of 3-2. They come into this game off the back of a 1-0 home win on Saturday over Werder Bremen, the perfect way to open their Bundesliga campaign.
Liverpool earned their first Premier League win of the season last Saturday as they edged past Frank De Boer’s Crystal Palace by the same scoreline. It was a victory that they had to earn the hard way as Palace certainly made life difficult at times.
Some of that could have been down to the fact that Jurgen Klopp made five changes from the team that drew 3-3 with Watford on the opening weekend. Those changes were made with tonight in mind and should Liverpool progress then those changes will have been fully justified.
The fact that Liverpool already have the away win in their pocket will undoubtedly give them the advantage going into the 2nd leg. They’ve done what you would construe as the hard work, now they have to make sure they get themselves over the line. Home win and name in the draw for Liverpool.