If there was one good aspect to Liverpool’s surprise 1-0 loss at home to Aston Villa, it’s that it should shake clear any cobwebs of complacency that might set in at Anfield ahead of their Champions League return.
Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad are not going to be the sternest test of the Reds’ mettle this term, but as the Villans proved, anything can happen if they are not suitably motivated on home turf.
Liverpool are huge 11/50 favourites to win their first match back in Europe’s premier competition, with Ludogorets 9/1 and the draw 23/4.
Founded in 2001, the Bulgarians might be a young club, but their record of three domestic top-flight titles in the three years they’ve competed in the A Group should be respected, and they have some fine players.
Also known simply as Vura, the Dutch winger joined from Willem II last season and proved an instant success, scoring 12 times in 44 all-competition games for Ludogorets.
The 21-year-old has started this year in similar fashion, registering four goals and four assists in 15 matches.
Able to operate on either flank, Liverpool’s young attacking full-backs Javi Manquillo and Alberto Moreno will need to ensure they don’t get carried away and leave Misidjan too much space.
The 30-year-old Brazilian has been at Ludogorets since 2011 and has firmly established himself as a fan favourite operating as the side’s main playmaker.
However, it was Marcelinho’s eye for goal himself that proved pivotal in qualification, as he scored twice to send his side through to the playoff via a 2-2 draw away at Partizan Belgrade.
The tough-tackling midfielder is Ludogorets’ captain and a full Bulgaria international, and will be the visitors’ first line of defence.
Dyakov picked up two yellow cards and committed 12 fouls in five qualifying games. He will take no prisoners at Anfield.
The rampaging Brazilian full-back spends half of his time playing as a winger, with the 25-year-old’s attacking prowess demonstrated by the fact he picked up 12 assists in 53 matches in all competitions last season.
Caicara will be at the forefront of Ludogorets’ attempts to counter at Anfield and whoever Brendan Rodgers sends out on the left-wing will have to ensure he tracks back diligently throughout.
It is fair to say the centre-back wouldn’t have made this list without his antics in the playoff round against Steaua Bucharest, but any chance to retell that story is worth taking.
Moti, once of Steaua’s local rivals Dinamo Bucharest, scored his penalty before donning the gloves and saving two of the Romanian sides’ after Ludogorets’ keeper Vladislav Stonayov was sent off in extra-time.
As well as those heroics, Moti has been a steady figure in the Ludogorets defence since joining in 2012, and has plenty of European experience from his time at Dinamo.