Champions League

Liverpool out to complete Hoffenheim mission

2017-08-21 15:47
Jurgen Klopp (Getty Images)

Paris - Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will attempt to clinch their place in the lucrative Champions League group stage this week as they take a 2-1 lead into their play-off second leg against Hoffenheim.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's free-kick and a second-half own goal handed the Reds a commanding advantage in Germany, but Mark Uth's late strike provided Hoffenheim with a glimmer of hope ahead of the return at Anfield.

Klopp rotated his squad for Saturday's 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace in the Premier League, making five changes to the team with Wednesday's European encounter weighing heavily on his mind.

It is three years since the Anfield outfit, five times European champions, last graced the group stage of the continent's elite club competition.

"The performance and the result were not perfect, far from it. We still have much to do in this tie," Klopp said in Liverpool's matchday programme at the weekend.

The club have also rejected a third bid from Barcelona for star playmaker Philippe Coutinho, turning down a reported offer worth around £114 million.

The 25-year-old Brazilian has submitted a transfer request, but Liverpool have publicly stated Coutinho, currently sidelined by a back problem, is not for sale at any price.

Hoffenheim started the new Bundesliga campaign with a 1-0 victory at home to Werder Bremen, and Germany midfielder Kerem Demirbay still harbours hope of stunning Liverpool in the second leg.

"We could achieve something extraordinary there. We could turn it around. We will give everything to do that," said Demirbay, who was part of Germany's Confederations Cup-winning side in Russia.

Nice turn to Sneijder, Balotelli

Scottish champions Celtic are all but assured of a return to the group phase following a 5-0 demolition of Astana in last week's first leg in Glasgow.

Brendan Rodgers' side stretched their unbeaten domestic run to 52 matches with Saturday's 2-0 victory at Kilmarnock and have conceded just once in nine matches this season.

James Forrest struck the Hoops' opener at Rugby Park but insists Celtic cannot afford to be overconfident ahead of their 6 000km trip to Kazakhstan.

"We just can't get complacent, we need to make sure we start the game well and start positive and hopefully get a positive result," said Forrest.

Nice face a monumental task to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Napoli on Tuesday, but the French side will be boosted by the presence of Mario Balotelli and new recruit Wesley Sneijder.

The Dutchman, a Champions League winner with Inter Milan in 2010, played 85 minutes in his debut on Saturday as Nice downed Guingamp 2-0 for their first points of the season.

"I feel good, especially with a win, you feel really good. As for my performance, I know I can do better," Sneijder, who joined on a free transfer following his exit from Galatasaray, told Canal+.

"It was my first match so I need to get to know the guys. The second half was better than the first but I still need time."

Balotelli also made his first appearance of the league season after coming on a second-half substitute following his return from injury.

Sevilla will fancy their chances of qualifying for a third straight group stage campaign as they hold a 2-1 edge over Turkey's Istanbul Basaksehir, who have never won away from home in Europe.

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
Celtic v Bayern Munchen, Celtic Park 21:45
Sporting CP v Juventus, Estadio Jose Alvalade 21:45
Atletico Madrid v Qarabag, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 21:45
Manchester United v Benfica, Old Trafford 21:45
PSG v Anderlecht, Parc des Princes 21:45
Basel v CSKA Moskva, St. Jakob-Park 21:45
Olympiakos Piraeus v Barcelona, Stadio Georgios Karaiskaki 21:45
Roma v Chelsea, Stadio Olimpico 21:45
Wednesday, 01 November 2017
Besiktas v Monaco, Vodafone Stadyumu 19:00
Liverpool v Maribor, Anfield 21:45
Porto v RB Leipzig, Estadio Do Dragao 21:45
Sevilla v Spartak Moskva, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan 21:45
Shakhtar Donetsk v Feyenoord, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:45
Borussia Dortmund v APOEL, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:45
Napoli v Manchester City, Stadio San Paolo 21:45
Tottenham Hotspur v Real Madrid, Wembley Stadium 21:45
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
Spartak Moskva v Maribor, Otkrytiye Arena 19:00
Besiktas v Porto, Vodafone Stadyumu 19:00
Sevilla v Liverpool, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan 21:45
Manchester City v Feyenoord, Etihad Stadium 21:45
APOEL v Real Madrid, Neo GSP 21:45
Borussia Dortmund v Tottenham Hotspur, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:45
Monaco v RB Leipzig, Stade Louis II. 21:45
Napoli v Shakhtar Donetsk, Stadio San Paolo 21:45
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Qarabag v Chelsea, Bakı Olimpiya Stadionu 19:00
CSKA Moskva v Benfica, VEB Arena 19:00
Juventus v Barcelona, Allianz Stadium 21:45
Sporting CP v Olympiakos Piraeus, Estadio Jose Alvalade 21:45
Atletico Madrid v Roma, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 21:45
PSG v Celtic, Parc des Princes 21:45
Basel v Manchester United, St. Jakob-Park 21:45
Anderlecht v Bayern Munchen, Stade Constant Vanden Stock 21:45
Tuesday, 05 December 2017
Bayern Munchen v PSG, Allianz-Arena 21:45
Barcelona v Sporting CP, Camp Nou 21:45
Celtic v Anderlecht, Celtic Park 21:45
Benfica v Basel, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 21:45
Manchester United v CSKA Moskva, Old Trafford 21:45
Olympiakos Piraeus v Juventus, Stadio Georgios Karaiskaki 21:45
Roma v Qarabag, Stadio Olimpico 21:45
Chelsea v Atletico Madrid, Stamford Bridge 21:45
Wednesday, 06 December 2017
Liverpool v Spartak Moskva, Anfield 21:45
Porto v Monaco, Estadio Do Dragao 21:45
Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:45
Maribor v Sevilla, Ljudski vrt 21:45
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:45
RB Leipzig v Besiktas, Red Bull Arena 21:45
Feyenoord v Napoli, Stadion Feijenoord 21:45
Tottenham Hotspur v APOEL, Wembley Stadium 21:45
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