Ludogorets v Liverpool
Wednesday, KO 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 5
The Bulgarian champions have won many friends in their first foray into Champions League football this season despite taking just three points from four games.
Their performance in the first fixture at Anfield merited more than losing in the 92nd minute to a Steven Gerrard penalty and they made Real Madrid work very hard for a scrappy 2-1 win in Bulgaria.
Liverpool owe the Bulgarians a drink for their historic 1-0 defeat of Basel in November, which has subsequently kept the Reds' Champions League campaign alive.
There have been six teams in Champions League history who have taken three points or fewer from their opening four group games and still managed to progress from this stage of the competition. So, all is not lost for Ludogorets, who can be backed at 10.09/1 and bigger to qualify, although a final fixture against Real Madrid sums up their task.
Having spent a huge amount of energy, fight and skill to get back into the Champions League, Liverpool's European adventure is hanging by a rapidly diminishing thread.
Thanks to the sensationalist culture we currently find ourselves trapped in, the general consensus is that this is a must-win for Liverpool.
Actually, a draw or even a defeat leaves the door open for the Reds to qualify as teams have qualified from Champions League group stages with six/seven points involving a group winner that has a 100% record.
If the Reds fail to win in Bulgaria and Basel beat Real Madrid then admittedly it will be curtains but odds of 2.111/10 to qualify identifies the very realistic task ahead for Brendan Rodgers' side.
However, in order for Liverpool to keep their own destiny in their own hands they need to win this game and then triumph by more than one goal against Basel at Anfield in the final group match on December 9.
Let's not let play down the importance of this game for Rodgers and the club though.
Rodgers saw his Liverpool side fall to their sixth defeat of the season at Crystal Palace on Sunday as their poor start to the season continued.
The result leaves last year's Premier League runners-up 18 points adrift of leaders Chelsea and just four points off the relegation zone.
Another lacklustre showing could see the board start asking questions of a manager that has spent £214.4m whilst in the hot seat and whose inability to get results when his team are playing badly could be catastrophic for his career in management at the top level.
A consistent team selection has been one of Rodgers' biggest problems this season.
Since Luis Suarez jumped ship to Barcelona, the under-fire Liverpool boss has yet to stumble upon his strongest starting eleven.
Daniel Sturridge's absence remains a huge worry (Liverpool have won just four of their 15 matches without him) whilst at the other end the ease at which opposition players break through to the Liverpool danger area is quite extraordinary.
Mario Balotelli, who scored his only Liverpool goal against Ludogorets at Anfield, is back in training ahead of the trip to Bulgaria after missing the 3-1 defeat at Selhurst Park.
There's no getting away from the fact that Liverpool will have to pull on all of their mental strength and individual quality to leave Bulgaria with all three points.
The hosts have a strong recent home record in UEFA competitions, with five wins, three draws and two defeats from the last ten games and they've only lost two of their last 27 matches in all competitions when the home team - those defeats were inflicted by Real Madrid and Valencia.
However, 4.3100/30 for a home victory makes little appeal.
There is an argument to suggest that Ludogorets have been a little overrated by the markets at this level due to their 1-0 victory over Basel, who had to play 72 minutes with ten men after Geoffroy Serey Die's red card.
Despite their territorial dominance, the hosts found it difficult to break through that night and Yordan Minev's goal in the dying minutes never looked likely.
Meanwhile, I'm yet to completely lose faith with Liverpool as a betting proposition although my bank manager would want me to stay well clear judging by P+L record on the Reds this season.
Granted, they have failed to hit the heights of last season and have floundered in both boxes, but to my eye their midfield play is still among the most dangerous in European football.
They have pace and creativity in abundance and should have the attacking firepower to create chances against such mediocre opposition.
Anything around even money for an away win - the price is trading around 1.9720/21 - is a backable betting opportunity.
The draw can be punted at 3.711/4.
Liverpool to win and Over 2.5 Goals
I said it earlier this season, and I'll say it again: when Liverpool win football matches the game produces over 2.5 goals.
This was my betting angle for their home game with Chelsea earlier this season and although that bet went south, I've not been scarred by the loss.
Rodgers doesn't know how to shut up shop in a game, therefore Liverpool are always attacking on the break until the end hence why goals flow regularly at both ends in their wins.
All of Liverpool's last 18 wins have seen the games produce over 2.5 goals. We can even give this stat further muscle by adding to the pot that 26 of their last 27 victories have seen the game leap over the 2.5 goal barrier.
Therefore, to add bulk to a pretty skinny price of 1.9720/21 for an away win, it should pay to back Liverpool to win in this market around the 3.002/1 mark or bigger.
Back Liverpool to win & the game to go over 2.5 goals @ 3.02/1 or bigger