Liverpool look to Ludogorets task for Champions League boost
The Champions League will come as a welcome diversion for lacklustre Liverpool (odds-on at 5/6 with Coral to qualify from Group B), who slumped to their sixth Premier League defeat last time out after limply surrendering a lead to Crystal Palace.
Now just four points above the relegation zone, beleaguered boss Brendan Rodgers knows his side need an injection of confidence if they are to save their dismal season.
Europe is one place that the Reds have largely flourished, regardless of their standing in the domestic league. Rodgers will be hoping that continental success can restore his flagging team, as Liverpool travel to face Ludogorets Razgrad.
The Anfield outfit are odds-on at 10/11 to take all three points from their trip to Bulgaria, in what will be a hostile atmosphere.
Ludogorets are currently propping up Group B, but there are still points, and pride, to play for. Liverpool need at least one win to keep pace with main threat Basel, who they will battle in the final pool clash.
Rodgers’ Reds could be forgiven for thinking their upcoming clash against the Eagles would be an easier tie. Upstarts Ludogorets, however, are 10/3 to steal a surprise scalp after scaring the Merseyside men at Anfield earlier this term.
On home turf, with a boisterous Bulgarian crowd behind them, Georgi Dhermendziev’s men could be an even trickier prospect. The minnows are 5/2 to stifle a Liverpool side that have struggled to find the net recently and split the spoils.
Only a Steven Gerrard penalty saved the Reds’ blushes, and the experienced skipper is 2/1 to net anytime or 7/1 to close the scoring again.
Misfiring forward Mario Balotelli was also on target against Ludogorets last time these two teams faced and is expected to be fit enough to play a part, making him 9/2 to draw first blood once more.
Rickie Lambert, often overlooked by Rodgers since his summer arrival, has a strong claim to challenge Balotelli to a starting spot after grabbing Liverpool’s only goal last time out.
The Reds have racked up just two in four Group B games, but Lambert (5/1 to net first or 7/1 to bag a brace or better) could fill his boots against a Ludogorets backline that have leaked eight in this pool so far.
Dhermendzhiev’s men are not without their own forward threats, however. Midfielder Dani Abalo (5/1 to be on target anytime) has been leading the attacking impetus of late, with three in his last four outings, whilst frontman Roman Bezjak is 7/1 to fire home the final goal.
Rodgers has recognised the need for his Reds to shore up their rearguard. Speaking after defeat against Palace, he stated: “We need to be more tenacious, more aggressive and have a greater capacity to defend better as a team.”
After conceding six in Europe this season and seven in their last four matches, Liverpool appear unlikely to shut out any opposition at the moment. With this in mind the Reds are 8/1 to replicate the previous 2-1 scoreline and enjoy a brief reprieve from their domestic torment.