Liverpool draw Hoffenheim in Champions League play-off, Celtic take on Astana

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Liverpool will play Hoffenheim in the Champions League play-off round.

The draw sees Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp return to his native Germany and striker Roberto Firmino take on his former club.

Scottish champions Celtic meet Kazakhstan side Astana, who they beat in the third qualifying round last season.

Liverpool are competing in European football’s premier competition for only the second time in eight seasons after finishing fourth in the Premier League last term.

Klopp will know Hoffenheim well from his time coaching in Germany, but the Bundesliga club will present a difficult obstacle as Liverpool look to reach the Champions League group stage.

Coached by 30-year-old Julian Nagelsmann – the youngest manager in Europe’s top five leagues – Hoffenheim finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season.

Hoffenheim had the second-best defensive record in the division and only champions Bayern Munich suffered fewer defeats.

Celtic’s reward for their third qualifying round victory over Rosenborg of Norway is to once again make the near 8,000-mile round trip to Kazakhstan.

Brendan Rodgers’ side played Astana in the Champions League last season, drawing 1-1 in Kazakhstan before winning the Parkhead return 2-1.

The first legs will be played on August 15 and 16, with the return fixtures on August 22 and 23.

Provided by Press Association

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PICS: 20 players who never won the Champions League

Brendon Netto 4/06/2017

Gianluigi Buffon was left crestfallen on Saturday after missing out on a Champions League winner's medal yet again.

Juventus were beaten 4-1 by Real Madrid at Cardiff as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace to secure his fourth triumph in the competition out of five finals.

Meanwhile, the iconic Italian goalkeeper missed out on hoisting that trophy for a third time after falling at the final hurdle with the Serie A outfit in 2003 as well as 2015.

It's almost unfair that a model professional and distinguished character like Buffon continues to see the Champions League missing from his exemplary record. However, he definitely finds himself in good company with several world-class players failing to capture European club football's greatest prize. From Diego Maradona to Ronaldo (the Brazilian), the gallery above features 20 players who have never won the Champions League. Did any of the names in the list surprise you? Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

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Five things we learned from the Champions League final

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Real Madrid beat Juventus 4-1 to become European champions at the National Stadium of Wales.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice for Real with Casemiro and Marco Asensio also on target, while Mario Mandzukic replied with a fantastic effort.

Here, we examine some of the talking points from a thrilling night in Cardiff.

REAL MADRID REWRITE HISTORY AGAIN

The competitive nature of the Champions League had ensured that no side had retained the trophy since the competition was restructured a quarter of a century ago. But Real made it three wins in four seasons to become the first back-to-back European champions since Milan won the trophy in 1990.

Real’s win was a record 12th in the competition and also secured them a first LaLiga and European Cup double since 1957-58. Juventus’ own piece of history was less welcome, the Old Lady having now lost a record seven European Cup finals.

RONALDO IS STILL THE MAIN MAN

Write Cristiano Ronaldo off at your peril. The Portuguese goal machine might be 32 now, but he still knows the spaces to attack and how to finish. Some 13 years after he scored in the FA Cup final in Cardiff to win his first major trophy at Manchester United, he once again showed he is the man for the big stage.

Here he became the first man to score in three Champions League finals in the modern era and his second at the near post made it 600 goals for club and country. Gareth Bale, a late substitute here in his home city after injury, continues to live in Ronaldo’s shadow.

SUPER MARIO PUTS HIS NAME IN LIGHTS

Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic’s 27th-minute equaliser was one of the greatest goals in Champions League final history. Gonzalo Higuain sent Alex Sandro’s cross towards him but there seemed no danger until the Croatian produced a moment of jaw-dropping brilliance.

Receiving the ball 15 yards out on the left of the area, Mandzukic chested it up before hooking an acrobatic effort past two defenders and over the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Keylor Navas. An incredible goal which will be replayed time and time again.

BUFFON THE ETERNAL BRIDESMAID

There is little room for sentiment in football and that was underlined again as Gianluigi Buffon became a three-time Champions League final loser. At the age of 39 years and 126 days, the Italy international would have replaced compatriot Paolo Maldini as the oldest player to win the Champions League had Juventus become European champions for the first time since 1996.

Buffon had conceded only three goals on the way to the final, but that total was matched inside 64 minutes as Real showed their cutting edge. Time waits for no man, and Buffon is certainly short on that commodity if he is to win the Champions League.

CARDIFF PROVED THE PERFECT HOST

The smallest city to host European football’s biggest game showed that size does not matter when it comes to putting on the perfect party. The 74,500-capacity National Stadium of Wales has a couple of huge selling points which makes it ideal for such events.

The stadium is right in the middle of the city and the two sets of fans mingled peacefully in the Welsh sunshine and made the most of Cardiff’s plentiful bars and restaurants. And the closed roof provided a unique Champions League final atmosphere which might persuade UEFA bosses to come back soon.

Provided by Press Association

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