Hoffenheim will be no walkovers

Before Saturday's Bundesliga opener against Werder Bremen, venerable football magazine Kicker presented Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann with the Football Writers' Coach of the Year award. It was a reminder of the esteem in which the 30-year-old is held ahead of Wednesday's trip to Anfield.
Nagelsmann made quite the impression last week when he rejected Jürgen Klopp's claim that Liverpool only allowed Hoffenheim to play in the areas where they couldn't pose a threat. "He would say that," Nagelsmann bristled. "He won't say: 'Hoffenheim played well and we were s**t."
To illustrate his point, the precocious tactician listed five occasions during the game when his team got into "meaningful spaces" and created chances. His side caused Liverpool particular problems with a series diagonal balls between centre-back and full-back, and, in his opinion, didn't deserve to lose. Centre-back Benjamin Hübner almost equalised at the death when he had a free header from a set-piece, but his header was over the bar and the Liverpool bench drew a sigh of relief. Hoffenheim scored 16 goals from dead-ball situations last season and will hope to take advantage of the Reds' Achilles heel at Anfield.
The Hoff need to score twice on Wednesday night and will be aware Swansea, Palace and West Ham all did that last season. It's a tall order and probably beyond them given they haven't scored more than one in any of their competitive matches so far this season. But the confidence of Nagelsmann and his team clearly hasn't been affected by last week's 2-1 defeat. Take them on Double Chance @ 2.46

FC Copenhagen 'a work in progress' but should have enough

The Telia Parken Stadion was, until recently, one of European football's fortresses. Leaving Copenhagen with a win was almost impossible even for some of the continent's elite. Last season, for instance, Stale Solbakken's side didn't concede a single goal in the Champions League group stages, frustrating the likes of Porto, Leicester and Club Brugge. In all, the Danes went a remarkable 56 games unbeaten at home.
The run surprisingly came to an end in July when FC Copenhagen were upset by MSK Zilina. Defeat wasn't enough to knock the Danish Superliga champions out of the competition but it did give an indication that this Copenhagen side isn't as solid as it has been in previous years. Highly rated full-back Ludwig Augustinsson has followed former captain Thomas Delaney to Werder Bremen, while talismanic striker Andreas Cornelius is now a playing in Italy with Atalanta.
Their departures have left Solbakken with a big rebuilding job and it's clear that, at the moment, Copenhagen are a work in progress. Only sixth in the league, they also lost 1-0 to Qarabag in Baku last week, putting their hopes of reaching the group stages in serious jeopardy.
Copenhagen of course reversed a 1-0 defeat to Vardar in the last round with a convincing 4-1 win back at the Parken and you'd think they would be able to repeat the same feat on Wednesday against Azerbaijan's finest. Saturday's 3-2 win at home to SøderjyskE was a step in the right direction even if it further underlined the problems Copenhagen are experiencing at the back now Augstinsson is gone. Back them to Qualify @ 2.46.

Sporting CP to keep it tight

Cosmin Contra, the manager of Steaua Bucharest's rivals Dinamo, thinks the chances of their neighbours making the group stages for the first time in four years is so fanciful, he will wear a skirt to his next press conference if they beat Sporting and secure their passage on Wednesday night.
Last week's stalemate at the Estádio José Alvalade was a good result for the 1986 winners, who have had to change their name to FC FCSB following a dispute with the Romanian army. Striker Denis Alibec, once of Internazionale, believes the result "silenced those who talk badly about Steaua" and dismissed Sporting as "not that dangerous" .
The tape of Sporting's 5-0 away win against Vitoria Guimarães might well have changed his opinion. Big summer signing Bruno Fernandes scored one of the goals of the weekend in Europe and it looks like a much-changed Sporting side is beginning to come together. Six new recruits, including Fabio Coentrao, played on Friday night although the much-hyped William Carvalho remains out in the cold amid speculation linking him with a belated switch to West Ham United.
While Jorge Jesus has something of a history of messing up Champions League play-offs - take the CSKA game from two seasons ago - it's hard to see them slipping up again here. Sporting are still yet to concede since the start of the campaign, and with that in mind back Rui Patricio and co to record another clean sheet @ 2.16.

Recommended Bets

Hoffenheim on Double Chance @ 2.46
FK Copenhangen to Qualify @ 2.46
Sporting to keep a Clean Sheet @ 2.16

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