Champions League: Liverpool vs Ludogorets - Preview
Returning to the Champions League after a five-year absence on Tuesday, Liverpool will hope to take advantage of a goalkeeping crisis inflicting their unheralded opponents Ludogorets.
London: Returning to the Champions League after a five-year absence on Tuesday, Liverpool will hope to take advantage of a goalkeeping crisis inflicting their unheralded opponents Ludogorets.
The Bulgarians` regular keeper Vladislav Stoyanov is suspended for the Group B game at Anfield after being sent off in the second leg of a dramatic playoff tie against Steaua Bucharest.
Defender Cosmin Moti had to go in goal for the penalty shootout and saved two spot kicks to put his side through.
Moti became such a hero that the club have named a stand after him at their stadium.
Reserve goalkeeper Ivan Cvorovic, like Stoyanov a Bulgaria international, was due to play against Liverpool but he injured a shoulder in training and may need an operation.
Coach Georgi Dermendzhiev was left to choose between Georgi Argilashki, who has not even played a league match, and Canada international Milan Borjan, a free agent signed just in time to qualify for the Champions League.
"Argilashki is a quality keeper," said Dermendzhiev. "He was part of the team for three years now and we can rely on him."
Ludogorets come from the small town of Razgrad and are only the second Bulgarian club to qualify for the Champions League group stages, after Levski Sofia in 2006.
They face a club who have won Europe`s premier club competition five times, most recently in 2005, when they famously beat AC Milan on penalties after trailing 3-0 at halftime.
After missing out on European football last season, Liverpool finished surprising runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League.
Results so far this season have though been mixed, with two wins and two defeats in four games.
As well as losing 3-1 at champions City, they suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat on Saturday by Aston Villa.
Brendan Rodgers and his players, who visit Basel in the next round of Group B matches before a double-header with holders Real Madrid, are confident that the atmosphere at a packed Anfield will help avoid what would be an even greater embarrassment.
"I have heard a lot about the European nights at this club," Brazil midfielder Philippe Coutinho told reporters. "We are confident we can make it to the next stage but we know it will be tough."
Liverpool have predictably been missing last season`s leading scorer Luis Suarez, who was sold to Barcelona, while England international Daniel Sturridge, who also scored heavily, will be unavailable on Tuesday after suffering a thigh injury in training with the national team last week.
But having initially rested England winger Raheem Sterling out of the Villa game, Rodgers confirmed he will start against Ludogorets.
Whoever plays in goal for the visitors can expect a busy and noisy night.