Why Liverpool’s Hoffenheim draw is tough but not the end of the world
Liverpool have been drawn to play Hoffenheim in their Champions League play-off and while it’s the toughest draw they could’ve had: it’s also not so bad.
It could’ve been a lot better really, couldn’t it?
The Reds have been drawn to play German side Hoffenheim in their Champions League play-off qualifier and there should be no one fist-pumping the air at that. While RB Leipzig stole the show, Julian Nagelsmann’s team were a revelation last season, impressing during a Bundesliga campaign that saw them finish in fourth place.
The 30-year old was hailed as a tactical genius at times last season and his fluid, flexible 3-5-2 formation caused problems for teams all across the Bundesliga table – they even scored their first ever league win over Bayern Munich.
In fact, Hoffenheim finished the season with the second best-ranked defence in the Bundesliga while also managing to put away 64 goals at the other end of the field.
However, while last season was the dream – this summer has seen the reality of such an impress finish hit the German club hard.
Their top centre-back, Niklas Sule, has left for Bayern Munich this window, followed by club captain Sebastian Rudy. Serge Gnabry may have moved the other way but to lose two important figures such as those is enough to cripple any side, not just one such as Hoffenheim.
Then there’s the fact that while for Liverpool, Hoffenheim was one of the tougher draws they could’ve pulled, it’s the same the other way round. The German side would’ve been looking at the list of clubs they could’ve come up against and it’s very likely that Liverpool were not their preferred choice.
The Reds themselves enjoyed an impressive campaign in 2016/17, finishing in fourth place and tucking away an impressive 78 goals in the process. The likes of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané devastated defences across the Premier League all season and the addition of Mohamed Salah only makes them even more frightening.
There was even an impressive defensive improvement towards the end of the campaign, as a back line once leakier than a dodgy faucet managed to concede just two goals in their final six games.
Then, of course, there’s the manager: Jürgen Klopp.
The German spent a number of years at Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and will know Hoffenheim well.
Of course, things were very different for the German side back then and the Hoffenheim that Klopp would’ve come up against was a very different proposition. Back then they boasted Liverpool’s current striker – Roberto Firmino – as their prized asset alongside a youthful side with promise but not enough venom to really compete.
However, Klopp’s no stooge and he’ll have done his homework on any new threats he’ll feel the need to be wary of.
There are suggestions on social media that if Liverpool can’t beat Hoffenheim, then there’s no way they should even feel hard done by about not being in the Champions League but for me, that’s a highly unfair statement.
This Hoffenheim side is a young, promising, exciting and most importantly, very talented, team with a class act as a manager.
Our opponents are going to be very tough to beat but make no mistake, so are Liverpool.