Crunch Hoffenheim tie gives Klopp the jitters

LONDON • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp concedes that his side are already feeling the pressure this season ahead of the return leg of their Champions League play-off against Hoffenheim today.

Liverpool looked to have planted one foot in the group phase after going 2-0 up in last week's first leg in Germany, only for Mark Uth's 87th-minute goal to bring the Bundesliga side right back into the tie.

The Reds also needed a late Sadio Mane goal to see off Crystal Palace 1-0 in the Premier League on Saturday and Klopp anticipates another knife-edge occasion at Anfield.

"We all have pressure and it's a quick start always," said the 50-year-old German. "You need to be there immediately, deliver and all that stuff. The difference this year is that it's really hard.

"We all know a draw (against Palace), it doesn't feel good, but you can sort it (out).

"You can't do this in a Champions League qualifier. This intensity is really hard, for both teams."

Klopp made five changes to his starting XI for the win over Palace, with debutant Andy Robertson, Ragnar Klavan, Joe Gomez, James Milner and Daniel Sturridge coming into the side.

Having started on the bench, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren, Emre Can and star signing Mohamed Salah are all expected to return to the starting line-up.

Robertson believes the firepower on show against Palace demonstrated the strength in depth in Liverpool's attacking unit.

However, the Reds are likely to still be without Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who is the subject of three unsuccessful bids from Barcelona and continues to nurse a back problem.

Liverpool are bidding to reach the Champions League group phase for only the second time since 2010. But fans will draw encouragement from the fact that in 14 previous European home games against German sides, their team have never been beaten.

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LIVERPOOL V HOFFENHEIM

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'Crunch Hoffenheim tie gives Klopp the jitters'. Print Edition | Subscribe