Liverpool- Hoffenhiem Leg 1
Liverpool and Hoffenheim contested the first leg of their Champions League qualifying match with clear and comfortable weather in Germany. Both teams continued their proactive approach from last season, seeking to keep their opponent off balance through constant pressing. Jürgen Klopp favors a pressing system where the player with the ball is under constant pressure while 30-year-old Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsmann prefers for his players to pressure general areas on the pitch. These contrasting styles were on display throughout the match.
In a match that didn’t feature Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mané proved the most influential player on the pitch. Hoffenheim’s pressing often fell apart when Sadio Mané was left to run at their defense. The pacey attacker was too much for the Hoffenhiem defenders and forced them to lose their discipline. It was Mané’s run and subsequent foul that set up Trent Alexander-Arnold’s perfectly placed free kick to open the scoring.
Up to that point Liverpool could count themselves lucky having saved a meek penalty by Andrej Kramarić.
Liverpool High Line
Continuing a theme from last season Liverpool were vulnerable on set pieces with their high defensive line. For all the talk of adding Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool’s team defending remains suspect. Disorganization and miscommunication at the back led to Mark Uth’s late goal gifting Hoffenheim some hope for the away leg.
Despite some noteworthy errors both teams played well. Hoffenhiem will be disappointed Sadio Mané was able to disrupt their defensive shape so much and must improve their tactical discipline to have a chance at Anfield. Perhaps Sebastian Rudy’s move to Bayern Munich has left too big of a hole in their midfield. Liverpool look the favorites but the type of sloppy defending that plagued them last season still gives Hoffenheim life.
UEFA.com. “UEFA Champions League — Hoffenheim-Liverpool.” UEFA.com, UEFA, 15 Aug.2017, www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/season=2018/matches/round=2000880/match=2021575/match-info/index.html.