Liverpool are widely expected to see off Champions League debutants Ludogorets in comfortable fashion when the competition returns to Anfield. However, should the Bulgarian minnows follow Aston Villa’s blueprint, it raises questions over what the Reds could do differently to break them down?
Little-known Ludogorets may be tagged as the 14/1 outsiders for a shock win, with Liverpool 2/9 shots, but their manager Georgi Dermendzhiev will have drawn huge encouragement from their hosts’ 1-0 defeat to Villa just days earlier.
Paul Lambert’s side executed a perfect game plan in the Premier League, reducing the Reds to a meagre shot on target.
Although Brendan Rodgers’ team enjoyed vast amounts of possession, and reeled off 18 shots in total, in truth they toiled to create any meaningful chances at all.
Even the introduction of three attacking substitutes, including the rested Raheem Sterling, failed to provide the creative spark to unlock an iron-gated Villa defence.
While it could be a simple case of a bad day at the office for Liverpool, combined with Villa’s excellent rearguard action, the need for Plans B or even C against more potentially stubborn opposition in Europe is raised.
It seems most likely Rodgers will start the game with either a diamond midfield and two up top, or employ his other favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.
However, what was lacking against Villa was Liverpool’s ability to probe from out wide and get behind Villa’s compact full-backs and midfield as central areas proved too congested.
If this proves to be the case against Ludogrets and Liverpool are finding their favoured lines of enquiry through the middle shut down once again, then switching to a 3-5-2 system could hold the answer.
Whether Rodgers decides to play Jose Enrique or Alberto Moreno on the left, both Spaniards are tailor made for charging forward as wing-backs and both posses the energy to get up and down.
Meanwhile, their young compatriot on the right, Javier Manquillo, has also shown boundless energy in his early Liverpool displays and could easily fulfil the same role on Anfield’s opposite flank.
Second-guessing exactly how Rodgers will set out his team is a difficult, but he used 3-5-2 to good effect at times last season and if things need shaking up against Ludogorets, it should be revisited.
Liverpool to come from behind and win is an 11/2 chance with Ladbrokes.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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