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UCL preview: Three keys to Liverpool-Hoffenheim

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A pair of away goals are under Liverpool’s wing as the Reds prepare for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff round second leg versus Hoffenheim at Anfield.

That’s great, but it’s Mark Uth’s late concession goal for Hoffenheim that will have Liverpool supporters wary ahead of the return match.

Three keys to the match for Liverpool? Well, let’s start with an easy one.

1) Avoid these score lines: The 2-1 score line works for the Reds, of course, who will only fail to reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League through some unlikely scenarios:

  • A two-goals or worse loss at Anfield
  • A 2-1 loss plus failing in penalty kicks
  • A one-goal loss while conceding three or more times

2) Don’t allow gaps in the midfield: Kerem Demirbay was being a little cheeky when he said, “We play better football than Liverpool,” and the sides have one major similarity: If you give them room, they can kill you.

Demirbay is a great example of this. The Confederations Cup winner can rip teams apart in the middle of the pitch, and giving him room allows him to choose between unleashing a cannon from distance and spotting Serge Gnabry, Andrej Kramaric, Sandro Wagner, or even Uth for chances on goal. Heck, even Adam Szalai on the bench is a very good option.

Gnabry and Kramaric played less than a half hour each in Hoffenheim’s 1-0 Bundesliga win over the weekend, while Wagner didn’t play at all. Game on.

3) Embrace the occasion: Jurgen Klopp branded Wednesday’s match and the presumed entry into the UCL group stage “the next step” in the club’s evolution under his watch.

This is Liverpool’s second UCL campaign of this decade, and the first UCL night at Anfield since a 1-1 draw against Basel on Dec. 9, 2014.

That night, Brendan Rodgers trotted out this XI: Mignolet, Johnson, Lovren, Skrtel, Enrique, Gerrard (who scored), Henderson, Lucas, Allen, Sterling, Lambert. His subs used? Coutinho, Moreno, Markovic (the last name earned a red card).

In previous home group games against Real Madrid and Ludogorets Razgrad, the Reds managed two more goals. Gerrard had another and Mario Balotelli the other.

So, and this is hopefully a bit overblown but certainly a concern: A whopping six Liverpool players have played in a home UCL match for Liverpool and no one on the Reds roster has scored a goal at Anfield in the competition.

Bundesliga wrap: Mainz holds Bayern; Kruse bags four

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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RB Leipzig has a chance to close the Bundesliga gap to six points after Bayern Munich dropped points to Mainz on Saturday.

[ FA CUP SEMI: Chelsea 4-2 Spurs ]

Despite hosting the match, the Allianz Arena needed a pair of equalizers to gain a point.

Bayern Munich 2-2 Mainz

A huge boost for the visitors, who likely didn’t expect this relegation safety aid. Stoke City loanee Bojan Krkic scored early and Daniel Brosinski converted a penalty to give Mainz 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but Arjen Robben and Thiago Alcantara arranged a point for the Bavarians.

Ingolstadt 2-4 Werder Bremen

Max Kruse scored not one, not two, not three, but four goals as once relegation-threatened Werder surged up the table and into sixth place. The visitors trailed 2-1 with 10 minutes to play when Kruse scored in the 81st, 87th, and fourth minute of stoppage time.

Borussia Monchengladbach 2-3 Borussia Dortmund

BVB overcame throwing away an early lead and conceding an own goal to climb into third place on goals from Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Raphael Guerreiro.

USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic went 90 minutes for BVB, won 10 duels and made more sprints (42) than anyone else in the match.

Koln 1-1 Hoffenheim

If you missed it Friday, this is how Kerem Demirbay nabbed the point which ensure Hoffenheim will make its first trip to European competition by virtue of a Top Six finish.

Elsewhere
Hertha Berlin 1-0 Wolfsburg
 – Ibisevic scores
Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 Augsburg – Two for El Tri’s Fabian
Hamburg 1-2 Darmstadt – Sulu, Platte with goals
Freiburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen – 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Schalke vs. RB Leipzig – 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday

Standings

 

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 30 21 7 2 73 17 56 11-4-0 10-3-2 70
 RB Leipzig 29 19 4 6 55 30 25 12-1-2 7-3-4 61
 Borussia Dortmund 30 16 8 6 65 35 30 11-3-0 5-5-6 56
 1899 Hoffenheim 30 14 13 3 57 32 25 10-5-0 4-8-3 55
 Hertha BSC Berlin 30 14 4 12 38 35 3 12-1-2 2-3-10 46
 Werder Bremen 30 12 6 12 50 51 -1 7-1-7 5-5-5 42
 1. FC Köln 30 10 11 9 43 37 6 7-6-2 3-5-7 41
 Eintracht Frankfurt 30 11 8 11 32 34 -2 7-6-2 4-2-9 41
 SC Freiburg 29 12 5 12 36 51 -15 8-1-5 4-4-7 41
 Mönchengladbach 30 11 6 13 39 44 -5 7-3-5 4-3-8 39
 FC Schalke 04 29 10 7 12 38 34 4 8-3-4 2-4-8 37
 Bayer Leverkusen 29 10 6 13 42 44 -2 5-5-5 5-1-8 36
 FSV Mainz 05 30 9 6 15 39 49 -10 6-4-5 3-2-10 33
 VfL Wolfsburg 30 9 6 15 30 43 -13 5-2-8 4-4-7 33
 Hamburger SV 30 9 6 15 30 55 -25 7-3-5 2-3-10 33
 FC Augsburg 30 8 8 14 29 49 -20 4-5-6 4-3-8 32
 FC Ingolstadt 04 30 8 4 18 33 54 -21 4-3-8 4-1-10 28
 Darmstadt 30 6 3 21 23 58 -35 5-3-7 1-0-14 21

2.Bundesliga player insults female ref, forced to ref girls’ game

Fortuna Dusseldorf Facebook
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Lessons are sometimes better learned with a dash of creativity, and Fortuna Dusseldorf certainly had a trick up its sleeve when it punished player Kerem Demirbay.

Demirbay, 22, received a pair of yellow cards from female referee Bibi Steinhaus during a match against FSV Frankfurt on Nov. 29.

[ MORE: Mourinho not worried about sacking ]

As he was dismissed, he told Steinhaus that women have no place in football. He later publicly apologized, dismissing it as the error of a young player.

And in addition to Demirbay’s league-issued suspension and fine, Fortuna decided he’d serve an additional punishment. This one showed that women very much have a place in the game.

An actual game.

From WhoAteAllThePies.TV:

However, his club weren’t finished there. Indeed, Fortuna also made sure Demirbay paid full penance for his sins against equality by forcing him to go along and referee a local all-girls’ game.

Bravo. And we love his “referee’s uniform”.