Liverpool make their long awaited return to the Champions League as they take on Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad at Anfield on Tuesday evening.
Having returned to Europe’s elite thanks to a series of superb attacking displays last season and an unexpected second place finish, the Reds will be hoping that this will be the first of many seasons in this competition under Brendan Rodgers, rather than just a one-off return to the biggest stage that club football has to offer.
A winning start is crucial, given that their opponents are the bottom seeds in Group B, which also contains defending champions Real Madrid, and Basel, who are always tricky opponents. The home crowd will savour the occasion after five years of being deprived of creating the famous atmosphere which comes with Champions League nights on Merseyside.
While they have a good chance of making it through the group stage, Liverpool will be concerned at their inconsistent start to the season, losing twice in their opening four Premier League outings. Should they put in another flat performance such as the one against Aston Villa on Saturday, Ludogorets will undoubtedly punish them.
Formed as recently as 2001, the visitors have made a meteoric rise to the top of Bulgarian football, and miraculously beat Steaua Bucharest on penalties to reach this stage. They cannot be taken lightly, having performed strongly in the Europa League last season, and there will be confidence among their ranks that they can test a shaky-looking Liverpool backline.
The hosts have a number of players out, with Joe Allen, Emre Can, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Sturridge all injured, while Lazar Markovic is suspended due to a red card while playing for Benfica in the Europa League in May.
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