English giants Liverpool take on German club Hoffenheim in the first-leg of the Champions League playoff round on Tuesday night. The Reds qualified for the competition via their fourth place finish in the Premier League, which was only assured on the final day of last season. Meanwhile, Hoffenheim finished in a similar fourth position, but they did not have much competition behind them with Koln ending 13 points adrift in fifth. On paper, the Reds should be clear favourites to beat their Bundesliga counterparts, but Hoffenheim maintained the league’s second best defensive record last term while finishing with just four losses.
Players to watch for:
Mohamed Salah – Liverpool: With Philippe Coutinho still on the sidelines due to a back injury, the Egypt international will have a point to prove for his new club. Salah became the club’s record signing earlier last month, and he has already made an impression with a goal on debut in the 3-3 Premier League draw at Watford. Salah first came to recognition with his brilliant performances with Basel in the Champions League, but he has not lived to a similar hype in the European competitions of late with just three goals in 15 appearances for former club Roma. Salah failed to progress further than the Champions League playoffs with Roma last term, and he will seek to avoid a second successive setback in the elite showpiece.
Andrej Kramaric – Hoffenheim: Kramaric turned out to be a huge flop for former English champions Leicester City before he made his permanent move to Hoffenheim last summer. The Croatian scored 15 Bundesliga goals while combining well with Sandro Wagner, and his movement will have to be watched by the Reds backline, who could field Trent Alexander-Arnold once again at the right-back. Kramaric has urged his teammates to be at the best of their abilities to progress beyond the playoffs and the 26-year-old will seek to open his goalscoring tally for the season with a vital goal at home.
Image – Getty