Hoffenheim vs Liverpool, Champions League – Qualification, Live stream
Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool are excited at the prospect of returning to the Champions League but are wary of the threat posed by play-off opponents Hoffenheim.
The Reds take on the German side at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Tuesday in the first leg of their play-off tie.
The winner over two legs will qualify for the group stage, which Liverpool have not appeared in since 2014.
“For three months we have been looking forward to this game,” said Klopp.
“We are here, in a good mood, looking forward to the game but aware of the qualities of the opposition and the difficulty of the game.
“But it is just good to be here and to have the chance even though we know it is really hard.”
The German is adamant that his players will be well prepared for the challenge of facing a side who finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season, behind Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund.
“We know much more about Hoffenheim than you can know,” he added.
“We have been together for 20 months and we always try to give good analysis to the players. We make sure they know about the opponents. We have opponents who are confident and aggressive.”
Liverpool will again be without forward Philippe Coutinho, who submitted a transfer request last week after the club rejected a bid from Barcelona. He missed Saturday’s 3-3 Premier League draw at Watford with a back injury.
He has not travelled with the 22-man squad to Germany.
Nathaniel Clyne (back), Danny Ings (knee), Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge (both thigh) also miss out.
However, Klopp is optimistic that England striker Sturridge will be ready to face Crystal Palace in the league on Saturday and be available for the second leg of the play-off with Hoffenheim at Anfield next Wednesday.
Summer signing Andrew Robertson, who was left out of the 18 for Saturday’s draw at Watford, is included in the squad in Germany and could make his debut at left-back.
Klopp will be looking for a more resolute defensive display on Tuesday than the one his side produced on Saturday.
Even without Coutinho they produced some irresistible attacking play at Vicarage Road to produce three goals – one each for their forward line of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and summer signing Mohamed Salah.
However, like last season, they were vulnerable defensively and conceded three minutes into injury time to miss out on two points.
Hoffenheim began their season with a 1-0 win at third-tier side Erfurt in the German Cup on Saturday.
Liverpool squad: Alexander-Arnold, Moreno, Lovren, Milner, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Can, Mane, Salah, Firmino, Kent, Solanke, Origi, Gomez, Klavan, Flanagan, Robertson, Matip, Grujic, Mignolet, Karius, Ward.