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Liverpool on brink of exit from Champions League; Real Madrid can clinch 1st place

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LIVERPOOL, England — Wins have not come easy for Liverpool this season, neither at home in England or in the Champions League.

But a win on Wednesday in Bulgaria against Ludogorets is exactly what the five-time European champions need to ensure they still have a chance to advance to the second round.

Both Liverpool and Ludogorets are at the bottom of Group B with three points. Real Madrid leads the way with 12 points, while FC Basel has six.

Liverpool needed an injury-time penalty from Steven Gerrard to salvage a 2-1 win over Ludogorets in their opener. A second victory in Bulgaria plus a Basel loss to the defending champions would set up a decisive game against the Swiss side at Anfield in the last group game.

Here are some more things to know about Wednesday's matches:


LIVERPOOL'S WOES

Liverpool lost its fourth consecutive match on Sunday, a 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace that left it in 12th place in the Premier League.

Now it must gather itself if it wants to prolong its first Champions League campaign in five years.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure we improve," Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet said. "We will become stronger if we all stick together."


HOME AWAY FROM HOME

PHOTO: Real Madrid's Karim Benzema of France, left, celebrates  his goal with Marcelo of Brazil, after scoring against SD Eibar, during the La Liga soccer match between SD Eibar and Real Madrid, at Ipurua stadium in Eibar, northern Spain, Saturday Nov. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Real Madrid's Karim Benzema of France, left, celebrates his goal with Marcelo of Brazil, after scoring against SD Eibar, during the La Liga soccer match between SD Eibar and Real Madrid, at Ipurua stadium in Eibar, northern Spain, Saturday Nov. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

Ludogorets will be hosting its first ever English opponent, but it won't welcome Liverpool to its home ground.

It is playing in Sofia, 400 kilometers (248 miles) from Ludogorets Arena because that stadium fails to meet competition regulations.


TIME TO REST

Madrid all but has the top spot locked up, only needing to avoid a defeat of four goals to ensure it finishes first with a game left.

That means Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti may rotate his starting 11 with a trip to Malaga in the Spanish league coming on Saturday.

The leading candidates to benefit and possibly start would be Javier Hernandez, Fabio Coentrao and goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Cristiano Ronaldo, however, will likely not miss the chance to add to his 70 career goals in the tournament.


SWISS CHEESE

Basel can qualify for the last 16, but needs to stop conceding five goals to Spanish sides.

A 5-1 loss at Real Madrid in September followed a 5-0 extra-time defeat at Valencia in April to exit the Europa League quarterfinals.

And the last time Basel hosted a Spanish team in the Champions League, Barcelona won 5-0 in October 2008.

Basel will advance if it beats already-qualified Madrid and Liverpool fails to win.

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