Liverpool v Hoffenheim
Wednesday August 23, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 2

Liverpool in the driving seat

After some high-profile hiccups in the transfer market (Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk are still firmly ensconced in their current clubs) some Liverpool fans would have you think the club is shrouded in gloom. However, in Mohamed Salah, Liverpool have added a superb forward to their arsenal, and in keeping star player Philippe Coutinho out of Barcelona's clutches, oft-derided owners FSG have made a big statement.

The club's progress under Jurgen Klopp will be firmly underlined if they can book their place in the group stage of the Champions League. Last week's 2-1 win in Sinsheim, courtesy of a stunning Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick and an own goal from Havard Nordveit, has put the Reds firmly in the driving seat. Given that Hoffenheim hadn't lost a home game since May 2016, Liverpool's victory was one to raise the eyebrows.

Although Liverpool do have plenty of work to do on their defending (the 3-3 draw at Watford showed off many of their flaws), they were actually pretty solid in southern Germany last week, and they kept a clean sheet in Saturday's 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. It's also worth noting that Liverpool have lost just one of their last ten competitive games at Anfield, and that sequence includes games against Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and Everton.

Rested Hoffenheim have a target score

Hoffenheim's first taste of Champions League football wasn't as sweet as they'd have liked. Despite going the whole of last season without losing at home, TSG fell at the first hurdle. It could have been so different had Andrej Kramaric put away an early penalty, but Hoffenheim were punished for every error they made. Such is life at European football's top table.

Coach Julian Nagelsmann made six changes to his line-up for the weekend's Bundesliga opener at home to Werder Bremen, and although his side huffed and puffed throughout, they won the match 1-0 thanks to a late deflected strike from Kramaric. Serge Gnabry, Kramaric and Pavel Kaderabek were all left out of the starting line-up, while big targetman Sandro Wagner wasn't included at all.

Playmaker Kerem Demirbay did start, and sparkled once again. He has a cultured left foot, is a massive danger with his delivery at set plays, and he struck the crossbar against Bremen with a stinging deflected drive. If Hoffenheim are to turn this tie in their favour, Demirbay will almost certainly be at the heart of that revival.

Nagelsmann and his players are confident they can get the result they need, with the coach suggesting that a 2-0 scoreline is their rough target, with 3-0 the dream. There's every reason for them to think they can score at Anfield - TSG have scored at least once in their last 11 competitive away games.

Reds to win with both sides netting

Hoffenheim are a hardy bunch with one of the best young coaches in the world at the tiller, but I think Liverpool's odds of 1.57 for the win are about right. Liverpool will have incredible backing at Anfield (the return of Champions League football is a big deal), and they have the pace to trouble what can sometimes be a static Hoffenheim defence. Kevin Vogt, Benjamin Hubner and Havard Nordveit are strong, and good in possession, but I wouldn't back them to contain Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for 90 minutes.

At the other end, I can see Hoffenheim scoring. They are excellent at attacking set pieces (they scored a Bundesliga-high 21 goals from dead ball situations last season), and the front line of Gnabry, Kramaric and Wagner should provide another big test for Liverpool.

So, on that basis, let's go for a double of Liverpool to win and both teams to score at 2.62.

Over/Under 2.5 Goals

I've already stated that I think there'll be goals here, but at odds of 1.51, I'll go elsewhere for my selections.

Mane man Sadio can net again

Sadio Mane has already scored against Watford and Crystal Palace, and his pace and skill should cause Hoffenheim plenty of problems. I'm happy to back him to find the net at 2.26.

On the Hoffenheim side of things, Kramaric regularly gets goals, and is trading at 3.30. If you want a bigger price, centre-back Benjamin Hubner had a great chance in the first leg, and he attacks the ball superbly in the air. He is 7.60 to score.

Recommended Bets
Back Liverpool/Both Teams To Score at 2.62
Back Sadio Mane to score at 2.26

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