England’s most successful club make a return to the UEFA Champions League after five years as Liverpool host Bulgarian champions at Anfield for their first match of the group stage.

Team news:

Liverpool: Mignolet, Manquillo, Toure, Sakho, Enrique, Gerrard, Henderson, Lallana, Sterling, Balotelli, Lambert

Ludogorets: Argilashki, Caicara, Terzeiv, Moti, Minev, Espinho, Dyakov, Aleksandrov, Bezjak Marcelinho, Misidjan

Daniel Sturridge is stilll out for Liverpool due to an injury and Rickie Lambert is expected to replace him in the starting XI. Joe Allen, Emre Can, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan are all out due to injury. Lazar Markovic is suspended for two games and will also miss the game against Basel. Kolo Toure and Jose Enrique might replace new signings Dejan Lovren and Jose Enrique in the defence. Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Lallana will play in the central midfield. Raheem Sterling will play in the number 10 role as Liverpool might play a diamond with Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert up front. 

As for Ludogorets, first choice goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov is suspended and Ivan Cvorovic is injured. Georgi Argilashki is expected to start at Anfield.

Manager Quotes:

Brendan Rodgers: “This is a group that has shown over the time that I’ve been here that we have to get over disappointment and move to the next game.

“We dominated the game against Villa but didn’t get the result we wanted but we have to move on. Our focus now goes straight to Tuesday night.

“It will be a wonderful occasion for us to be back in Champions League football and hopefully getting over the weekend result by getting a win in the first group game.

“I am very excited. Five years is a long time. We deserve the right to be in it. Last year, we had a great season. Success is about qualifying from the group. We will take it one game at a time. But the overall first objective is to perform well and get out of the group and qualify.”

Opta Stats:

  • Liverpool have won six of their eight encounters with Bulgarian sides but lost the last one; a 0-1 defeat at home against CSKA Sofia in the 2005/06 Champions League qualifiers. That’s the last time a Bulgarian side won an away game against an English side in European competition.
  • Ludogorets have only lost two of their last eight away games in European competition (W4 D2), both 1-0 defeats (against Valencia and Steaua Bucharest).
  • Liverpool are taking part in the Champions League for the ninth time. Their last appearance in the competition was in 2009/10.
  • Liverpool have won the European Cup/Champions League on five occasions: 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984 and 2005. Only Real Madrid (10) and AC Milan (7) have been more successful.
  • In their last group stage appearance (2009/10), Liverpool never scored more than one goal in a game (five goals in six matches).
  • Liverpool have only won two of their last eight Champions League games (L4 D2), both were against Hungarian side Debrecen (2009/10).
  • Ludogorets are one of two clubs to make their first Champions League appearance this season (since 1992/93), alongside Malmo.
  • The only previous Bulgarian side to take part in the Champions League were Levski Sofia in 2006/07. They lost all six of their games, scoring one goal and conceding 17.
  • Ludogorets beat Dudelange, Partizan Belgrade and Steaua Bucarest in the qualifiers to reach this season’s group stages.
  • Ludogorets won all three of their away games in last season’s Europa League group stages (against Chornomorets Odesa, Dinamo Zagreb and PSV Eindhoven).
  • Penalties excluded, Mario Balotelli has only scored four goals in 29 Champions League games.

Prediction:

Liverpool 4-0 Ludogorets