15 Aug 2017

Hoffenheim vs. Liverpool: Champions League - Confirmed Teams

Same shit, different season? That's the way it feels after Saturday's defensive debacle at Watford, and after last season's defensive issues, fans have every right to feel dishearted at Jurgen Klopp's apparent failure to fix the Liverpool's set-piece problems. Tonight's Champions League game at Hoffenheim is clearly a must-win encounter, and with any luck, self-sabotage will not be on the agenda (again).

Klopp has named an unchanged team for the game:

FULL TEAM: Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Moreno, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Mane, Firmino.

SUBS: Karius, Klavan, Gomez, Milner, Grujic, Solanke, Origi.

* Despite some typical defensive lapses against Watford, Moreno appears to be well and truly back in the frame, but, inexplicably, new signing Andy Robertson is once again missing from the matchday squad.

* What is the point in spending £10m on a new left-back and then leaving him out of the squad?! It's not as if Robertson is inexperienced; he's already proven in the Premier League so he should be able to slot right in. He doesn't appear to be injured (Klopp mentioned nothing when specifically asked in his pre-match press conference) so what's the freakin' problem?

* Henderson, Can, and Wijnaldum in midfield? Meh. I doubt that triumvirate fills anyone with genuine confidence. Hopefully, Henderson won't do as much ball-watching tonight as he did against Watford.

* One of either Matip or Lovren needs to step up tonight (and in the coming week/months) and take responsibility for organizing and cajoling the defensive unit. A lack of leadership at the back is clearly a root cause of Liverpool's defensive issues, and I personally want to see one of those two being consistently vocal during games. If that means putting noses out of joint then so be it; if Lovren, Matip, or even Henderson don't have the confidence or the balls to do it, then replace them with players who can meet the challenge and burden of leadership.

Hoffenheim finished 4th in the Bundesliga last season, and conceded fewer goals than Liverpool, so this game is no walk in the park. It needs to be taken seriously, and given the importance of the game, there's no excuse for complacency, or anything less than 110% application and effort.

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