BILLY BUNTER

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Reds may be happy to settle for a stalemate 

Champions League playoff round second leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Wednesday

Liverpool rode their luck to achieve a 2-1 victory away to Hoffenheim last Tuesday and they can squeeze through to the Champions League group stage with a draw the return match at Anfield.

Normally Liverpool would need no encouragement to play offensively in front of their home fans.

However, the Reds might be a little more cautious against Hoffenheim, who will have earned their respect with a lively performance at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena.

The Premier League side's top priority is to protect the very strong position they have established.

Hoffenheim need to score twice to have any chance of progressing and will need to show more precision in front of goal than they did eight days ago.

Andrej Kramaric missed a great chance to put Hoffenheim in charge of the tie when his 11th-minute penalty was saved by Simon Mignolet.

Further saves from Mignolet were required to deny Serge Gnabry and Nadiem Amiri as the Germans exposed the frailties of Liverpool's back-line.

But the Reds were always a threat in attack and might have put the tie to bed completely.

Both teams struggled defensively and a high-scoring match is widely anticipated at Anfield with both teams to score priced up at heavily odds-on.

However, Liverpool were far from their best when sneaking a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Against Palace, Liverpool were happy to take the three points and not worry too much about the performance.

And their attitude may be similar against Hoffenheim as Jurgen Klopp knows that the result is all-important in such a high-stakes contest.

Much will depend on Hoffenheim's attitude.

They were also 1-0 winners at the weekend - seeing off Werder Bremen on home soil - but need to get back to the free-flowing football which produced 64 goals in 34 league games last season.

Julian Nagelsmann's side have the players to cause Liverpool problems.

Winger Gnabry, on loan from Bayern Munich, caused Liverpool problems in the first leg with his pace and movement and Kramaric is an obvious threat having scored 15 Bundesliga goals last season.

However, Nagelsmann must balance the desire to push forward against the risk of exposing his defence to the counter-attacking threat of pacy Liverpool attackers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

It could be very tactical early on with both teams recognising the importance of scoring an early goal.

At some stage Hoffenheim will have to go for broke but they might come up just short on a nervy night on Merseyside.

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Draw

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Match in Focus

13:00 Th 21Jun ITV

Denmark v Australia

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Australia have scored in their last nine games against European teams
Expert verdict
Australia must have been delighted with their performance in the 2-1 loss to France and they can keep their qualification hopes alive by drawing with Denmark in Samara. The Socceroos matched France for long periods with Aaron Mooy impressing in midfield. They can trouble the Danes, who rode their luck against Peru.