Group C, one of the highest quality groups in the UEFA Europa League this term, gets kicked off on Thursday night when Hoffenheim play host to Portuguese side Braga.
Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Sinsheim, Germany 14 Sep 2017 5:00 pm (GMT)
Key Stat: Both of Hoffenheim's losses so far came at the hands of Liverpool in the Champions League playoff.
Expert Verdict: Hoffenheim will come into this match and the group as big favorites, and you just know deep down that Julian Nagelsmann and his side are going to give this competition a real go. Hoffenheim look like the kind of team that will deeply respect the tournament, and they will want to go out and win it and bring their first European trophy to the club. That is a long way off, however, and Braga are no slouches. Still yet, the German side should be able to defeat Braga- as they did might Bayern- at home.
Julian Nagelsmann will have to make do without center backs Stefan Posch and Kevin Vogt, left midfielder Steven Zuber, winger Serge Gnabry, and strikers Adam Szalai and Sandro Wagner due to various injury problems.
One man that is looking like quickly becoming one of Europe's finest strikers right now is Marc Uth. As a substitute, he struck in both matches against Liverpool. And he continued that form into Bundesliga play with three goals in three matches, including both goals on Saturday against Bayern Munich in their big win.
Hoffenheim might have lost both legs to Liverpool in that playoff round UCL tie, but they have started the Bundesliga well with seven points from three matches. Their most impressive performance yet was a 2-0 win on Saturday against Bayern Munich at home.
Defenders:Nordtvelt, Bicakic, Hubner
Midfielders:Polanski, Kaderabek, Demirbay, Amiri, Schulz
Abel Ferreira will be missing goalkeeper Marafona, center back Ricardo Ferreira, defensive midfielder Mauro, and winger Wilson Eduardo due to injuries.
His league form hasn't been up to par this season so far, but striker Paulinho has packed quite the punch in the Europa League thus far. The 24 year old Brazilian has three goals thus far in the competition, and he will look to add more here against an open Hoffenheim side.
Braga have began their season in Portugal in some shaky form. They came through in the qualifier rounds of this competition, but they have two league losses in a row to look back. They lost to Viotria Setubal on Sunday away 2-0.
Defenders:Goiano, Viana, Rosic, Jefferson
Midfielders:Danilo, Fransergio, Teixiera, Fabio Martins
Braga and Hoffenheim will meet for the first time on Thursday, as this is Hoffenheim's first year in European football.
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Hoffenheim are at 2/5 to win, a draw is at 10/3, and a Braga win is at 15/2.
Braga, as stated before, are no slouches. However, they aren't Bayern Munich. And that team went down at the weekend at Hoffenheim. So that is a saying a lot about where Nagelsmann's team is right now, and it shows why they are so heavily favored here.
Even if they rotate some, they have a very good and tactically aware team that can make adjustments on the fly to suit the manager's needs. That gives them a big leg up in Europe, where tactical games can and will happen frequently.
Braga do come into this match in good European form with three wins and a draw in their four matches this season, while Hoffenheim lost both of theirs to much more difficult opposition.
Hoffenheim to win by two is set at 10/3.
Hoffenheim get off to a great start in their first Europa League match with a home victory.