Monday 11 December 2017

Who are they and who are the danger men? Everything you need to know about Hoffenheim

Andrej Kramaric in action during his Leicester days
Andrej Kramaric in action during his Leicester days

Mark Critchley

Liverpool have been drawn against Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim in the Champions League playoff round, with Jurgen Klopp in line for a return to his native Germany.

Who are they?

Playing in Germany’s fifth-tier club at the turn of the century, village club Hoffenheim have risen through the divisions in the years since courtesy of financial backing from software mogul Dietmar Hopp.

Now, they find themselves in the Champions League qualifying rounds for the first time after an impressive 2016/17 season under the tutelage of their 30-year-old head coach, Julian Nagelsmann.

Nagelsmann guided Hoffenheim to a fourth-place finish last season against expectations and only champions Bayern Munich conceded fewer goals. Hoffenheim were, however, the league's draw specialists, ending 14 of their 34 matches all square.

Roberto Firmino, the Liverpool striker, is one of the club's former players. The Brazilian scored 49 goals in 153 appearances for Die Kraichgauer during his four-year stay.

How did they get this far?

Hoffenheim, like Liverpool, were granted an automatic place in the playoff round after securing a top-four finish in last season’s Bundesliga.

How long is the trip?

Liverpool to Hoffenheim is 768 miles or about a one hour and 50 minute flight to nearby Stuttgart.

Who are Hoffenheim’s danger men?

Andrej Kramaric, the former Leicester City striker, was Hoffenheim’s top scorer last term, notching 18 times in all competitions.

Bayern Munich and ex-Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry is on loan at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena this season and Harvard Nordveit recently joined the club from West Ham United.

Kerem Demirbay is one that Liverpool will have to keep a close eye. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder set up 10 goals for his team-mates last season.

Past meetings

Liverpool and Hoffenheim have never faced each other in a competitive match before.

When will the ties be held?

The specific dates are yet to be finalised by Uefa, but the first leg of the playoff round at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena will be played on either 15 or 16 August.

The return leg at Anfield will be played on 22 or 23 August.

Independent News Service

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