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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Napoli beat Nice in UCL playoff first leg; Celtic thrash Astana, Sevilla win

Goals from Dries Mertens and Jorginho helped hosts Napoli take a 2-0 first-leg lead over Nice.

Goals from Dries Mertens and Jorginho were enough to earn Napoli a 2-0 win against Nice in their Champions League qualifying play-off first leg.

Mertens rounded Nice goalkeeper Yoann Cardinale after racing on to a ball over the top to fire into an empty net in the 13th minute.

And Christophe Jallet then fouled Belgium international Mertens in the 70th minute to concede a penalty, which Jorginho scored to seal the win.

Nice were not helped by the absence of Mario Balotelli, who is injured, and new...

Hoffenheim boss Julian Nagelsmann disputes Jurgen Klopp analysis

Hoffenheim scored a late goal to give them a puncher's chance against Liverpool heading to Anfield for the second leg.
Steve Nicol and the FC crew break down the positives and negatives of Liverpool's Champions League victory over Hoffenheim.
Julian Nagelsmann has said Hoffenheim were unfortunate to lose 2-1 to Liverpool in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League qualifier.

Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann has rejected Jurgen Klopp's claim that Liverpool kept the Bundesliga side under control throughout their Champions League playoff first leg on Tuesday.

Liverpool won 2-1 in Germany as they edged toward a place in the Champions League group stage, and Klopp said afterwards that his side had kept Hoffenheim in "the spaces that we believe were not dangerous."

However, Nagelsmann suggested Klopp was trying to put a positive spin on a performance that saw Hoffenheim...

Trent Alexander-Arnold was told he 'had to take' free kick by Jurgen Klopp

Trent Alexander-Arnold scored his first-ever Liverpool goal in fashion with this well taken free kick.
A reporter in Jurgen Klopp's pregame press conference at Hoffenheim had a slip of the tongue when trying to ask the manager about his first Champions League match as a manager.
Steve Nicol and the FC crew break down the positives and negatives of Liverpool's Champions League victory over Hoffenheim.

SINSHEIM, Germany -- Jurgen Klopp says he forced Trent Alexander-Arnold to be on free kick-taking duty as the youngster scored his first goal for Liverpool in the 2-1 win over Hoffenheim on Tuesday night.

Alexander-Arnold, 18, broke the deadlock in the first leg of the Champions League playoff with a long-range free-kick in the first half.

James Milner added the second goal before Mark Uth netted late on to keep the tie alive, although Hoffenheim need to score at least two goals at Anfield in a week's...

 By Ben Gladwell

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri calls on team to show they belong in UCL

Nice manager Lucien Favre explains the club's decision to rest Wesley Sneijder and Mario Balotelli against Napoli in the UCL.

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri has called on his club to do the city proud and prove they belong in the Champions League by beating Nice to reach the group stage.

The Azzurri face Nice, who will be without Mario Balotelli for Wednesday night's clash at the Stadio San Paolo due to injury, for a place in the lucrative group stage of European football's elite competition.

It is a game which could make or break Napoli's season before the first round of Serie A matches are played next weekend, and Sarri...