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New boys Ludogorets plot Basel surprise

PFC Ludogorets Razgrad had never won a European tie before this season but now find themselves a step away from the group stage as they welcome FC Basel 1893 to Bulgaria.

Stoicho Stoev hopes to oversee one more surprise from the Bulgarian champions
Stoicho Stoev hopes to oversee one more surprise from the Bulgarian champions ©Meridian Match

Surprise package PFC Ludogorets Razgrad find themselves on the threshold of the UEFA Champions League group stage but first they must get past FC Basel 1893.

• The Bulgarian title holders had only ever played one European tie before this season – losing to a GNK Dinamo Zagreb goal eight minutes into added time in last season's second qualifying round just as an away-goals triumph beckoned – but they have certainly made up for that setback this season, beating ŠK Slovan Bratislava and FK Partizan in the two previous rounds.

• Ludogorets' goal is to become only the second Bulgarian team after PFC Levski Sofia in 2006/07 to compete in the UEFA Champions League group stage, though producing another shock against Basel may prove a tougher task give the vast experience of last season's UEFA Europa League semi-finalists.

Match background
• Ludogorets coach Ivaylo Petev departed after the 2-1 first-leg loss at Slovan in the second qualifying round, and his successor Stoicho Stoev has overseen some fine performances. A 3-0 second-leg win put paid to the Slovakian champions and they then defeated Serbia's Partizan both home and away in the next round for a 3-1 aggregate success.

• Basel, who overcame Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC 4-3 on aggregate in the third qualifying round, are looking to reach the group stage for the fourth time after previous appearances in 2002/03, 2008/09 and 2010/11.

• Basel's record at this last stage of qualifying is W3 L3. They slipped up against CFR 1907 Cluj in the play-offs 12 months ago, losing 2-1 at home and 1-0 away.

• The Swiss side found a subsequent silver lining last season in the shape of a long run in the UEFA Europa League. Murat Yakin's men advanced all the way to the last four – their first European semi-final – where they lost to eventual winners Chelsea FC. Ludogorets may draw encouragement, though, from the fact Basel did not win any of their seven away games in that campaign.

• Basel's only previous meeting with Bulgarian opposition came in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League group stage when they took on PFC CSKA Sofia and won 2-0 at the same venue where they now face Ludogorets, the Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski, on 22 October 2009. Alexander Frei hit both goals that night and scored another two in the return, with Marcos Gelabert also on target in a 3-1 victory.

Team ties
• Home coach Stoev was in the PFC Lokomotiv Sofia team beaten on away goals by Neuchâtel Xamax FC in the 1985/86 UEFA Cup second round, drawing 1-1 at home and 0-0 in Switzerland. Stoev's goalkeeping coach, Nikolai Donev, also played in both matches.

• As assistant coach of Grasshopper Club, Basel's Yakin saw his team earn a 4-0 aggregate win in the 2008 UEFA Intertoto Cup against a PSFC Chernomorets Burgas side that included Vladislav Stoyanov and Michel.

• Behrang Safari, Valentin Stocker, Marco Streller and Massimo Colomba – now Basel goalkeeping coach – all featured in the Swiss club's 2009 victories against a CSKA side including Ivan Stoyanov, Michel and Yordan Minev. Also in the CSKA ranks was Ivan Ivanov, now a Basel player but ineligible for this tie having been part of the Partizan side beaten by Ludogorets in the last round.

• Stocker and Streller played at the Natsionalen Stadium again in Switzerland's goalless draw with Bulgaria in a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier in 2011. Vladislav Stoyanov was an unsed substitute for the home side.

• Vladislav Stoyanov has already faced Basel in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, losing 4-0 on aggregate with FC Sheriff in 2010/11. Stocker scored past him to give Basel a 1-0 home win in the first leg, with Streller getting one of Basel's three goals in the return.

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