Ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League qualifying play-off first leg against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Tuesday, we’ve taken an in-depth look at the Reds’ opponents.
You will be aware of the fact Roberto Firmino played for Hoffenheim before his move to Anfield in 2015, but what else do you need to know about Achtzehn99 ahead of the two clubs’ first ever meeting?
Read on to find out more about the team standing in Liverpool’s way of a place in the Champions League group stages…
Located in a small village in the Rhine-Necker region of south-west Germany, Hoffenheim formed in 1945 following the merging of the village’s gymnastics and football clubs.
Up until the turn of the century, Hoffenheim were a local amateur club, playing in the German fifth tier as recently as 2000. But investment from former youth-team player and software entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp changed the club forever.
Successive promotions took Hoffenheim up the divisions and by the 2007-08 season, the club were a professional outfit in 2. Bundesliga.
A second-placed finish in the second tier that campaign earned Hoffenheim a place in the Bundesliga – capping a remarkable rise through five divisions in just eight years.
Hoffenheim enjoyed a dream start to their maiden top-flight campaign in 2008-09 and were top of the division at the mid-season break, before a drop-off in form resulted in them finishing seventh.
Three back-to-back 11th-placed finishes followed, with Achtzehn99 firmly establishing themselves as a Bundesliga club.
After surviving a relegation play-off in 2012-13, Hoffenheim rose to ninth a year later, scoring 72 goals and conceding 70 in their 34 league games. Firmino netted 16 times in 33 appearances in his second season in the Bundesliga.
The club were struggling in 2015-16 following the departures of Firmino and Anthony Modeste, but the arrival of Julian Nagelsmann – then aged 28 – in February 2016 proved decisive, as they won seven of their final 14 matches to avoid the drop.
Building on that momentum, Hoffenheim claimed their highest ever finish of fourth place last season, just a point behind third-placed Borussia Dortmund as Nagelsmann helped secure qualification for the Champions League play-offs for the first time in the club’s history.
Now aged 30, Nagelsmann has forged a reputation as one of Europe’s leading young coaches.
Persistent knee injuries prevented Nagelsmann from pursuing a playing career, so he studied sports science before briefly working in Thomas Tuchel’s backroom staff during the former Borussia Dortmund boss’ time at Augsburg.
He has been on the coaching staff at Hoffenheim since 2010, working with the club’s youth sides before being appointed first-team manager.
Andrej Kramaric and Sandro Wagner, internationals for Croatia and Germany respectively, scored a combined total of 26 goals in the Bundesliga last term.
This summer, Nagelsmann has brought in Serge Gnabry on loan from Bayern Munich and midfielder Havard Nordtveit from West Ham United, while Kerem Demirbay racked up eight assists from central midfield last season.
Situated in Sinsheim – just under five miles outside of Hoffenheim itself – the Rhein-Neckar-Arena has a capacity of 30,150 and was opened in 2009.