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Preview: Molde vs. Hoffenheim - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Molde vs. Hoffenheim - prediction, team news, lineups: ID:435477: from db_amp
Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Molde and Hoffenheim, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Molde take on Hoffenheim in the first leg of their last-32 Europa League knockout tie at Estadio de la Ceramica in Villarreal on Thursday evening.

The match had to be moved from Aker Stadion in Molde due to German restrictions preventing travel to or from countries where any new variants of COVID-19 are currently known to be present.

Match preview

Molde, who finished as Norwegian runners-up last season, will be competing in the Europa League knockout stage for only the second time in the club's history when they take on Hoffenheim on Thursday.

The club's last tie at this stage ended in a 3-1 aggregate defeat to eventual champions Sevilla in 2016, with Hoffenheim perhaps representing a better chance of progressing to the latter stages.

However, with the Norwegian season finishing in December, Erling Moe's side have only competed in friendlies in recent weeks, so they could find the intensity of a competitive match difficult to adjust to.

Much will hinge on the form and match fitness of captain Magnus Wolff Eikrem, who came through the ranks at Manchester United and had a brief spell with Cardiff City earlier in his career, with the creative midfielder carrying much of the offensive burden with three goals and two assists helping his side finish second behind Arsenal in Group B.

Hoffenheim, meanwhile, have endured an indifferent season, impressively romping home in Group L with an unbeaten record after winning five and drawing once, but currently languishing in the bottom half of the Bundesliga.

However, Thursday's clash with Molde will be their first European knockout stage tie in the club's history, so there is certainly plenty at stake for Sebastian Hoeness's side.

The 38-year-old has had no luck at all with injuries this season, and was dealt another blow by his top goalscorer Andrej Kramaric sustaining an ankle injury last week, which is likely to keep the Croatian out for a month.

However, Hoeness will still be expected to navigate his side past Molde across two legs alongside keeping the club clear of relegation trouble. If they can get themselves into the last 16 with Kramaric potentially nearing a return, anything could happen.

Molde Europa League form: WWLLWD
Molde form (all competitions): WWDLWW

Hoffenheim Europa League form: WWWWDW
Hoffenheim form (all competitions): DWWLLD

Team News

Molde will be without Ola Brynhildsen, who is not set to return from his fractured leg until April.

Moe is likely to pack the midfield in a 4-5-1 system, with his defence sitting deep in an attempt to combat Hoffenheim's counter-attacking style.

Rest, rotation and a positive coronavirus test meant that Kramaric did not start a game for Hoffenheim in the group stage, and the Croatian is set to miss both legs of this tie, too, with an ankle injury.

The German side are also likely to travel to Villarreal without Chris Richards, Havard Nordtveit, Ryan Sessegnon, Kevin Akpoguma, Dennis Geiger, Ermin Bicakcic, Benjamin Hubner and Kostas Stafylidis due to injury, meaning Hoeness's substitutes' bench will have a few empty seats once again.

Molde possible starting lineup:
Linde; Pedersen, Gregersen, Sinyan, Risa; Hestad, Aursnes, Ellingsen, Eikrem, Knudtzon; Omoijuanfo

Hoffenheim possible starting lineup:
Baumann; Posch, Vogt, Kasim; Kaderabek, Rudy, Samassekou, Baumgartner, John; Bebou, Dabbur

We say: Molde 1-1 Hoffenheim

Given the extent of their injury issues, we would expect Hoffenheim to be content with a score draw to take home with them.

Molde may prove to be rusty or revitalised after a two-month gap since their last competitive fixture, but either way Moe's side should be the more energetic outfit and it would be no surprise to see them inflict a minor upset.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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last updated article - 2021-02-16 12:24:53:
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