Liverpool face German opposition in the last 32 of the Europa League, but Kevin Hatchard believes that won't give their coach Jurgen Klopp any sort of advantage...
"Liverpool are finding it very difficult to establish any kind of rhythm or consistency, and Augsburg are a much better side than their current league position suggests."
Augsburg v Liverpool
Thursday February 18, 20:05
Live on BT Sport Europe
It's been a disorientating rollercoaster ride of a season for both of these clubs, and they meet with neither quite sure what they will produce on any given day. Liverpool are still implementing Jurgen Klopp's methodology, and making baby steps, while Augsburg have been chasing their tails since an abominable start to the campaign.
Liverpool were ruthless in Sunday's 6-0 win at Aston Villa, but the opposition were woefully bereft of quality and confidence, and it's difficult to judge just how good the visitors were. The weaknesses were on display the weekend before, as Liverpool squandered a 2-0 advantage to draw 2-2 with Sunderland.
With Daniel Sturridge in Liverpool's side, there is always the potential for a devastating attacking display, and it's no accident that he happened to be in the line-up for Sunday and the 6-1 win at Southampton in the League Cup. The England forward's injury problems have made it difficult for him to establish any kind of rhythm, and the team has that issue as a whole - Liverpool haven't managed back-to-back wins since the first week of December.
This tie is unquestionably the pinnacle of Augsburg's existence so far. It is the Bavarians' first ever European campaign, and Markus Weinzierl's men have shown extraordinary guts to get this far. In their final group game they needed to go to Partizan Belgrade and get a two-goal victory, and that's exactly what they did, as Raul Bobadilla's 89th-minute goal secured a 3-1 success.
They've also had to really dig deep after an awful start to the Bundesliga campaign. Having finished an incredible fifth the season before, FCA lost seven of their first ten league games this term, but they have hauled themselves out of the relegation zone.
You could argue that Klopp's knowledge of Augsburg is an advantage, but they know all about him and his counter-pressing too. FCA beat Klopp's Borussia Dortmund 1-0 at Signal Iduna Park a year ago, so there'll be no awe there.
Augsburg aren't in great form, but when the pressure's been on this season, they have delivered. Barrel-chested forward Bobadilla is a real threat, rangy Brazilian forward Caiuby has really improved this season, and Estonian centre-back Ragnar Klavan is an excellent defender.
Even though Augsburg have a big game away to rock-bottom Hannover on Sunday, I can't believe they won't pick a strong line-up for the biggest game in the club's history. Liverpool are unquestionably the more talented team, but the WWK Arena isn't an easy place to play when the home crowd gets going, and I can see Bobadilla causing a fragile Liverpool defence all kinds of problems.
Liverpool only won two of their six group games in a modest Europa League section, and in general they are talented but inconsistent. I just can't quite see the justification for backing them at 2.166/5.
Lay Liverpool at 2.166/5