Liverpool V Ludogorets Razgrad
Tuesday 16th September. 7:45PM. ITV 1
Liverpool’s five-year absence from Europe’s elite competition comes to an end on Tuesday night as Champions League football returns to Anfield.
Football fans everywhere have missed big European nights on Merseyside and it’s great to see the Reds back where they belong. In truth, they couldn’t have asked for a better opening fixture as they take on the predicted Group B whipping boys.
It should be a thrilling encounter.
Liverpool To Secure Return To Winning Ways
Brendan Rodgers’ men have endured a stuttering start to life without Luis Suarez and the injury to Daniel Sturridge certainly hasn’t helped matters. Nonetheless, the Reds will be fully expected to start their Champions League campaign with three points.
Liverpool were left bitterly disappointed by missing out on the Premier League title but their primary goal was to secure a return to this competition and they will want to put that work to good use by reaching the last 16 at least. If they are to do that then winning here is a must.
The Reds looked bereft of attacking ideas during Saturday’s loss to Aston Villa but the return of Raheem Sterling should inspire a positive reaction at Anfield. Meanwhile, Mario Balotelli will be determined to bag his first goal for the club whilst Rickie Lambert will have dreamed of playing Champions League football for Liverpool since childhood.
This competition also provided captain Steven Gerrard with his greatest ever moment and the Pool skipper will be eager to steer his side to success once more. Lifting the trophy might be beyond them but an extended run would certainly underline the fact that Liverpool are now back amongst the big boys.
It might not stand out as a headline fixture, but it should be another memorable European night at Anfield.
Bulgarians To Make History Of Their Own
Whilst British fans are looking forward to seeing Liverpool’s return to Champions League football, Tuesday’s encounter will also be a historic moment for the visitors as they partake in their first ever group stage fixture.
The only recollection that casual fans will have of the Bulgarian champions is their incredible play-off win over Steaua Bucharest. Having seen goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov sent off in extra-time, Ludogorets had no choice but to stick an outfield player between the posts for the closing moments and subsequent penalty shootout.
It was former Dinamo Bucharest defender Cosmin Moti who stepped up and the Romanian soon emerged as the real hero by stopping two Steaua penalties to send the Bulgarians through. It was an incredible night for a club that was only established in 2001 but followers of the Europa League won’t be too surprised by their achievements.
Ludogorets reached the knockout stages of last year’s Europa League, beating the likes of PSV, Dinamo Zagreb and Lazio en route to the last 16, where they lost to eventual semi-finalists Valencia.
Nevertheless, the Champions League is a real step up and Georgi Dermendzhiev’s men will be lucky to get many points from a group that also contains FC Basel and defending champions Real Madrid.
They’ll be sure to enjoy the ride though.
Liverpool V Ludogorets Razgrad Betting
Unsurprisingly, Liverpool enter this clash as the overwhelming favourites with Bet365 pricing them at 2/9. The draw can be backed at 6/1 whilst a shock away win is available at 14/1.
Following Saturday’s surprise league loss to Aston Villa, the Reds will be expected to respond in a positive manner and that could result in a tough start for the Bulgarians in their first Champions League encounter.
The Kop will be in full swing from the word go and that should help inspire the hosts. With much more difficult games to come, it is essential that Liverpool get up and running in style and we’re backing them to do just that.
If Liverpool do take an early lead than it may be curtains for the visitors. If the floodgates do open, the hosts will be more than happy to capitalise.
Goal difference could play a crucial part in deciding which teams progress out of Group B and Rodgers will want his side to make the most of this early opportunity. A big home win could be on the cards. At odds of over evens, we simply cannot ignore this selection.