Anyone unaware of who Liverpool’s first Champions League opponents since 2009/10 are can’t have paid too much attention to the play-off stage of the competition.
PFC Ludogorets Razgrad, or Ludogorets to their friends, became only the second Bulgarian side to reach the Champions League’s group stage when beating Steau Bucharest on penalties.
If that achievement wasn’t enough to grab the attention, the manner of that shootout win was.
Having used all three substitutes prior to the end of the match, Romanian defender Cosmin Moti had to don the goalkeeper gloves when Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off.
Well, he only went and saved two of them to win the thing and now the side that were only founded 13 years ago are dreaming of yet more fairytales.
Ludogorets are huge 14/1 chances to beat the Reds, whose captain Steven Gerrard had already been playing first-team football for three years when the club was created.
The steep and unexpected rise of The Eagles, as their known, is largely down to the investment of Kiril Domuschiev, a multi-millionaire pharmaceutical businessman who bought the club in 2010 when the side played in Bulgaria’s second division.
They sealed promotion to the country’s A Group that season as champions, going on to win the top-flight’s title in each of their three campaigns since and securing the domestic treble in two of them.
Bulgaria’s Chelsea, Ludogorets have only lost 10 league matches in the past three seasons but will find the €5m yearly budget they operate on, a fortune domestically, suddenly pales in significance when compared to Group B rivals Real Madrid.
Having learnt a little about them, a punt on their 11/1 odds to qualify for the knockout stage may be a little more than romantic considering their performance in last term’s Europa League.
After beating PSV home and away to top their group, the Bulgarians then knocked out Lazio before succumbing to Valencia in the round of 16.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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