September 16, 2014; 19:45 BST
Liverpool FC will host Ludogorets Razgrad at Anfield as Champions League football returns to Anfield after a gap of almost five years.
It will be a special occasion at Anfield and it is amazing that Liverpool’s opponent for this game will be a club formed in 2001. But the Reds will not their opponents lightly and the Bulgaria club comes into this fixture on back some good performances in their domestic league. They defeated Steau Bucuresti in an incredible match to book their place in the group stage.
Liverpool meanwhile will be desperate to get over their disappointing loss against Aston Villa at the weekend as they failed to scores past their opponent after conceding an early goal. Brendan Rodgers will hope for more penetration in attack in this game as they look to start their Champions League campaign with a win.
Team news and tactics
Brendan Rodgers has a lot of injury concerns to contain with ahead of their opening fixture in the Champions League. New signing Emre Can remains at the side-lines, while Glen Johnson, Joe Allen and Jon Flanagan also continue their recovery from fitness concerns. Allen and Flanagan could be available for selection next weekend, but Johnson will be out for a considerable duration.
Rodgers biggest concern at the moment is the absence of Daniel Sturridge. The England international is expected to be out for two more weeks, which has put a lot of responsibility of Mario Balotelli to provide the goals upfront. Martin Skrtel is back in training after missing the last two matches, but he remains unavailable for selection for this game. Lazar Markovic will be unable to make his Champions League debut for the club as he serves his suspension.
Rodgers is expected to make just one change to the starting line-up he used against Aston Villa. The Liverpool manager decided to rest Raheem Sterling for that game and brought him on in the second half when they were in desperate need of goals, the Englishman feature from the start in this game as he replaces the suspended Markovic in attack.
Liverpool failed to break down Aston Villa’s defence in the last game and Sturridge’s absence seems to have crippled their attack. Mario Balotelli and Raheem Sterling will now have to shoulder extra responsibility against Ludogorets and provide the goals in Sturridge’s absence.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Mignolet (GK); Manquillo, Lovren, Sakho, Moneno; Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho; Sterling, Balotelli, Lallana
Georgi Dermendzhiev doesn’t have too many injury concerns at the moment and will be able to field his strongest eleven, expect for his first choice goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov. The 27-year-old received his marching orders in the extra time against Steaua Bucuresti in the Champions League qualifier and will serve his suspension in this game.
Dermendzhiev is expected to make two changes to the side that started against Botev Plovdiv on Friday. Georgi Argilashki will replace the suspended Stoyanov in goal, while Dani Abalo will have way for Georgi Terziev at the center of the defence, despite scoring Ludogorets’ opening goal in the last game.
The Bulgaria side will line-up in a conventional 4-2-3-1 formation with Fabio Espinho and Svetoslav Dyakov shielding the defence. 21-year-old Virgil Misidjan is an exciting talent, and the youngster could trouble Manquillo with his pace down the left wing. Brazilian playmaker Marcelinho will provide the creativity behind Roman Bezjak.
Expected starting line-up (4-1-4-1): Argilashki (GK); Caicara, Terziev, Moti, Minev; Espinho, Dyakov; Aleksandrov, Marcelinho, Misidjan; Bezjak
Players to watch-out for: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool); Virgil Misidjan (Ludogorets Razgrad)
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Ludogorets Razgrad