Reds To Go Ludocris On Bulgarians
Liverpool v Ludogorets
Jaymes Monte previews Liverpool’s Champions League opener as they take on Bulgarian champions Ludogorets.
Liverpool return to the Champions League stage for the first time since the 2009-10 season with an opening group game that they really should win with some ease.
That said, many expected that they’d take care of Aston Villa with ease at the weekend and that didn’t work out as planned. Gabby Agbonlahor’s opener inside the opening 10 minutes ended up being the only goal of the game as Brendan Rodgers’ side suffered their second defeat of the season, after just four games played.
The Reds had previously impressed against Tottenham and Southampton, but disappointed in a convincing defeat at the hands of Manchester City. Mario Balotelli has failed to hit the ground running at Anfield, which has accentuated the impact of Luis Suarez’s departure from the club.
In contrast to Liverpool’s four games played, Ludogrets have already played 14 competitive matches this term, including six Champions League fixtures to reach the group stages for the very first time.
Their play-off win against Steaua Bucharest was particularly dramatic as goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off in the final minute of extra time and with all of their substitutes used centre-back Cosmin Motij, after scoring the opening penalty, went in goal and saved two to help secure a 6-5 shoot-out victory. A stand at the club’s stadium is set to be named after the player in honour of his achievements.
With eight games played Ludogrets sit third in the Bulgarian A Group table having won four, drawn three and lost just one.
Daniel Sturridge is Liverpool’s main injury concern following the injury that he controversially picked up in England training last week. Joe Allen, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel all also missed the game against Aston Villa.
Ludogorets ‘keeper Vladislav Stoyanov misses the game through suspension following the aforementioned red card he received in the play-off round, while back-up goalkeeper Ivan Cvorovic has also been ruled out with a shoulder injury. 23-year-old Georgi Argilashki will make his debut for the club between the sticks.
Unsurprisingly this will be the first official meeting between the two clubs.
It’s difficult to make a case for the Bulgarians taking anything from this game, except to say that they will come to Anfield with a nothing-to-lose attitude. However, the weekend loss to Aston Villa should focus the minds of the Liverpool players and 2/9 in the Match Odds market is a fair price.
I expect a reaction from Rodger’s men and a special atmosphere as Champions League football returns to Anfield
; I can’t see anything less than a convincing home win and 13/8 about Liverpool (-2) in the Handicap market looks a good bet.
Raheem Sterling’s pace could cause particular problems for a relatively inexperienced Bulgarian side and at odds of 9/2 to score first and 11/10 to net anytime the English youngster is my pick of the goalscorer markets.