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Preview: Liverpool vs. Ludogorets Razgrad

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's Champions League Group B clash between Liverpool and Ludogorets Razgrad at Anfield as the Reds return to Europe's top table.

Five-time European champions Liverpool mark their return to the Champions League with a Group B clash against Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad on Tuesday evening.

In total, this is the 19th season that the Premier League side have competed in the European Cup, but it is their first campaign in five years, with last season's second-place finish in the Premier League enough to secure automatic qualification.

Liverpool won the competition in 2005 after overcoming AC Milan in the final, but lost out to the same opponents two years later. They were last in the group stages in the 2009-10 season, but finished third in their group before reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League.

The Reds have faced Bulgarian opposition eight times in total, winning six times in the process, but they did lose 1-0 to CSKA Sofia at Anfield in 2005. Liverpool also enter the match off the back of a disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Ludogorets, meanwhile, are in the group stages of the Champions League for the first time. They beat Steaua Bucuresti on penalties in the final qualifying round to make this stage, but they did reach the last 16 of the Europa League last season in their debut appearance.

The visitors have won only seven of their 15 matches in all competitions this season, but they sit third in the Bulgarian league having taken 15 points from their first eight games.

Liverpool will be without summer signings Emre Can and Lazar Markovic through suspension, while Daniel Sturridge remains on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

Raheem Sterling is expected to return to the XI, but the Premier League side have problems in defence, with Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan and Martin Skrtel all struggling.

The visitors, meanwhile, will be without their first-choice goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov through suspension. As a result, Georgi Argilashki is expected to come into the XI.

Head coach Georgi Dermendzhiev has no fresh injury concerns, however, and is expected to name a front three of Roman Bezjak, Virgil Misidjan and Marcelinho. The former scored 20 times for the Bulgarian side last season and is seen as their biggest threat.

Recent form

Liverpool: WWLWL

Ludogorets: LDWDW

Possible starting lineups

Liverpool: Mignolet; Manquillo, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson; Sterling, Coutinho, Lallana; Balotelli

Ludogorets: Argilashki; Moti, Aleksandrov, Minev, Junior; Abalo, Dyakov, Espinho; Marcelinho, Bezjak, Misidjan

Sports Mole says: 3-0


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Liverpool's Italian striker Mario Balotelli plays during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane in London on August 31, 2014
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Olympic medal table header
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United StatesUnited States13141037
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Today's Olympic highlights header

Thursday's key events


ROWING
· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· As second-fastest qualifier for the final, Team GB's James Wilby is among the medal contenders in the men's 200m breaststroke (2.44am)
· Alys Thomas takes part in the women's 200m butterfly final, although he faces a difficult task to challenge for the medals (3.28am)
· Caeleb Dressel of the USA has been touted by some as the successor to Michael Phelps, and he has the chance to notch up a fourth Olympic gold in the men's 100m freestyle final (3.37am)

RUGBY SEVENS
· After Team GB's men narrowly missed out on a medal, the women get their campaign underway against the Russian Olympic Committee (3am) and New Zealand (10.30am)

HOCKEY
· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
· Most eyes will be on the women's showdown between the two nations, though, as Netherlands - the world's best team - look to gain revenge on GB for defeat in the 2016 Olympic final (11am)

CANOE SLALOM
· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· With Simone Biles now out of the women's all-around final, the competition has been blown wide open. Team GB twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are among those taking part (11.50am-2.05pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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