Liverpool managing to secure a spot in the Champions League group stage as they marched to a 4-2 victory against Hoffenheim at Anfield

Having won 2-1 in Germany last week, it was clear that the Reds were favourites to progress, but Julian Nagelsmann’s side were not going to go down quietly. Although the Bundesliga outfit could possibly never outclass Liverpool’s stunning attacking football, they did exploit the many vulnerabilities in their defence.

The Reds, however, were in absolutely lethal form as they thrashed their German counterparts in front of the vociferous Anfield crowd. Emre Can proved to be outstanding as he netted a double, following which, goals from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino saw Liverpool dominate the visitors.

Suffice to say, some potentially heavyweight clashes in Europe’s elite club competition now await the Merseyside club. As Liverpool advance on a solid 6-3 on aggregate, THT takes a look at five key talking points from the high-octane encounter:

Roberto Firmino’s dominance up-front

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool celebrates scoring his sides second goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on January 21, 2017 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Back to form? (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Firmino did struggle in the first leg when Liverpool traveled to face his former club. Last night though, he unleashed his true fiery form and gave a performance that the fans will remember for quite some time. Leading the line instead of being used out wide, the 25-year-old was sensational.

Some of his touches were oozing class and creativity, while his passes managed to weave their way through the opposition defenders. His work rate off the ball was a key reason for the Reds’ dominance. In fact, Firmino’s pass helped Sadio Mane in the build up to Can’s opener.

When he was not making brilliant passes to aid his teammates, Firmino was charging up and down the field with a remarkable display of pace. He also netted a goal, capping off a satisfying day at work. He is clearly an important part of the Liverpool attack and has had a role to play in several of their triumphs, particularly the one last night.

Sadio Mane – Liverpool’s new star man?

Liverpool's Senegalese midfielder Sadio Mane (l) celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, north of London on August 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / OLLY GREENWOOD / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLLY GREENWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

The new star man? (Photo by OLLY GREENWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Many believe Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool’s most important player. The uncertainty surrounding his future has proven to be quite cumbersome since he has been sidelined from the matches so far. However, Liverpool have a new star man in the form of Sadio Mane, who has only gone from strength-to-strength.

Mane has made a superb start to the season, and against Hoffenheim, there was invariably nothing the Bundesliga side could do to stop him. Proudly displaying his prowess on the left-hand side, Mane was electrifying in the first half in particular.

He wreaked havoc with his speed, movement and trickery, and received a richly deserved standing ovation once he was substituted later. Although he failed to score last night, Mane was priceless yet again. It is evident that he could be the new star play-maker for the Reds as they get ready to take on the challenges of the new season.

Liverpool’s defensive woes continue

Liverpools German headcoach Juergen Klopp is pictured during the final Audi Cup football match between Atletico Madrid and FC Liverpool in the stadium in Munich, southern Germany, on August 2, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Need for reinforcements accentuated? (Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Going forward Liverpool have all the weaponry they need to make life tough for any team at home or abroad. Nevertheless, that will not last long in the Champions League group stage unless Jurgen Klopp somehow manages to sort out his overly vulnerable defence.

Having conceded three in their opening Premier League game at Watford, Liverpool’s frailties at the back were exposed yet again by Hoffenheim’s attackers. Mark Uth finished a fine break through the first half before Sandro Wagner headed a late consolation as Liverpool’s aerial deficiencies surfaced again.

Luckily for them, it didn’t affect the result this time. However, when the group stages begin such lapses will prove to be fatal. Jurgen Klopp now needs to go back to the drawing board and delve into the transfer market and find some solutions to rectify the mistakes which only appear to be increasing.

The Dejan Lovren conundrum

Everton's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (C) vies with Liverpool's Estonian defender Ragnar Klavan (L) and Liverpool's Croatian defender Dejan Lovren during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on December 19, 2016. / AFP / Oli SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Unable to stay strong at the back? (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

There are times when one might feel like Dejan Lovren receives more than his fair share of criticism. Yet, the fact remains undeniable that he continues to be a weak link in an otherwise strong Liverpool side. Klopp’s men were not the best when it came to defence, but Lovren cut out a sorry figure as he caused several troubles for the side.

Liverpool were cruising at 3-0 up, as Hoffenheim struggled but then it was Lovren’s lazy pass that eventually let Mark Uth pull a goal back. Then, with the score at 4-1 after the break, the 28-year-old was beaten in the air by Sandro Wagner, allowing him to head home.

Lovren can have good games – lest people forget – but time and again he is showing that he will only cost his team, and not add any value from his side. This can help them somehow skim through the group stages but once the going gets tough, Liverpool will suffer embarrassing defeats, if the situation is not addressed immediately.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is a star in the making

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23: Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs round second leg match between Liverpool FC and 1899 Hoffenheim at Anfield on August 23, 2017 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)

Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs round second leg. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)

Trent Alexander-Arnold might seem like a young, inexperienced player when it comes to the Champions League – but the way he played last night only makes it look like he was born to play on the European stage. He proved to be a delightful player in the first leg, and was all the more stunning at Anfield.

The teenage right back – a major star in the making – gave Liverpool a leg up into the group stage with his terrific free kick in the first leg in Germany. Once again last night he diligently played his part as Liverpool demolished Hoffenheim. The youngster didn’t score this time – but his attacking runs deep thrilled the Anfield crowd.

He looked capable enough to rip apart even the strongest of defences. Hoffenheim are not a small club by any means, and for a player like Alexander-Arnold to terrorize them the way he did, speaks volumes about his capabilities. It is highly likely that we will get to see a lot more of the young star as the season progresses for Liverpool.

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