The champions of Bulgaria and Croatia meet for the second season in succession, with PFC Ludogorets Razgrad having a score to settle against GNK Dinamo Zagreb in UEFA Europa League Group B.
• The sides are meeting for the second consecutive campaign, Ante Čačić's Dinamo having eliminated Ivaylo Petev's Ludogorets in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round last year, following up a 1-1 draw in Razgrad with a 3-2 win in Croatia, though the visitors led twice in that return fixture.
• The lineups for their game in Razgrad on 18 July 2012 – Ludogorets' first fixture in UEFA club competition – were:
Ludogorets: Golubović, Barthe*, Genchev, Dyakov* (Moţi* 83), Ivanov (Aleksandrov* 86), Gargarov, Minev*, Guldan, Stoyanov* (Guela 90+1), Júnior Caiçara*, Marcelinho*.
Dinamo: Kelava, Ibáñez, Kovačić, Sammir*, Tomečak (Rukavina* 89), Tonel, Vrsaljko, Badelj, Pivarić* (Bećiraj* 56), Vida, Čop* (Alispahić 75).
* registered to play in this season's group stage.
• Those games against Dinamo represent the sum total of Ludogorets's experience of Croatian opponents, but Dinamo have played two other games against Bulgarian sides – home and away wins against OFC Botev Vratsa in the 1971/72 UEFA Cup. Their overall record against Bulgarian clubs is thus W3 D1 L0 (W2 D0 L0 at home – W1 D1 L0 in Bulgaria.
• Ludogorets can expect little joy in the return fixture; no Bulgarian club have won in six UEFA competition visits to Croatia (D1 L5) – seven if you include PFC Slavia Sofia's 3-0 loss at HNK Hajduk Split in the 1970/71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the non-UEFA affiliated precursor to the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League.
• Ludogorets are making their first appearance in a UEFA competition group stage in what is only their second European campaign. They were promoted to the Bulgarian top flight for the first time at the end of the 2010/11 season.
• The Bulgarian side kicked off Group B in some style with a 2-0 victory at PSV Eindhoven – their biggest European away success to date.
• Dinamo have yet to make it through the group stage of this competition in five attempts. The have lost their last seven away games in UEFA group stages – including six straight UEFA Champions League group stage defeats – since beating Club Brugge KV 2-0 in Belgium in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League.
• Dinamo's Portuguese defender Rúben Lima celebrates his 24th birthday on the day of the Ludogorets game, with team-mate Junior Fernándes turning 25 the following day.
• Dinamo defender Josip Šimunić will make his 50th UEFA club competition appearance if he takes the field against Ludogorets.
• Ludogorets and Dinamo are among nine domestic champions in this season's group stage along with NK Maribor (Slovenia), FC Sheriff (Moldova), Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC (Israel), Legia Warszawa (Poland), FC Shakhter Karagandy (Kazakhstan), APOEL FC (Cyprus) and IF Elfsborg (Sweden).
• Ludogorets were the only champions in the competition to win their opening fixture. Five of the others were beaten, while three drew.
• Brought in to replace Ivaylo Petev as Ludogorets coach in July, Stoicho Stoev was a stylish forward with PFC Lokomotiv Sofia in the 1980s, though he maintained a European outlook and classed Arrigo Sacchi as his coaching idol. After taking charge of a number of smaller Bulgarian clubs, the cool-headed coach led champions Ludogorets – his local side – to their first UEFA Europa League group stage campaign after defeat by FC Basel 1893 in the UEFA Champions League play-offs.
• Miroslav Blažević's assistant when Croatia unexpectedly finished third at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Branko Ivanković returned to begin a third spell in charge of Dinamo in early September, having led the club to a domestic double in 2007. The former NK Varteks player coached Hannover 96 for a while, and spent four years in charge of Iran prior to club appointments in China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
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