PFC Ludogorets Razgrad shone in last term's UEFA Europa League – now FC Steaua Bucureşti stand between them and a UEFA Champions League group stage debut.
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PFC Ludogorets Razgrad will attempt to break new ground and earn a first tilt at the UEFA Champions League group stage as FC Steaua Bucureşti cross the border into Bulgaria for the decider.
• Alexandru Chipciu scored in the 88th minute to give Steaua a 1-0 victory over Ludogorets in Tuesday's play-off first leg in Romania. The same player had missed a first-half penalty.
• The sides also met in a pre-season friendly in England in early July, with Ludogorets winning 4-2 (Dyakov 19, Marcelinho 65, Bezjak 72, Choco 81; Grădinaru 79, Iancu 83).
• Ludogorets are taking on Romanian opponents for the first time, but – ahead of the first leg – Steaua had played eight previous matches against Bulgarian teams with the record W4 D3 L1 (W3 D1 L0 at home – W1 D2 L1 in Bulgaria). Most recently, they eliminated PFC CSKA Sofia in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League play-offs – a tie in which current Steaua players Iasmin Latovlevici, Cristian Tănase, Florin Gardoș and Andrei Prepeliță featured. It was Steaua's third successive two-legged triumph against the Sofia Army Men.
• Steaua have not lost in their last 16 qualifying round and play-off ties in UEFA competition since succumbing to Rosenborg BK over two legs in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. They are seeking to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage for an eighth time.
• Ludogorets made their UEFA Champions League play-off debut last term, falling to FC Basel 1893 before forging on to the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League. They hope to become the first Bulgarian club since PFC Levski Sofia in 2006/07 to appear in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Links and trivia
• Bucharest and Razgrad are just over 100km apart, making this the closest thing that the 2014/15 play-offs have to a local derby.
• Should he figure in the second leg, Steaua defender Latovlevici will register his 50th UEFA club competition appearance.
• Ludogorets boast Romanian talent in defender Cosmin Moți, who also went into the first leg two games shy of his 50th outing in UEFA club competition. The 29-year-old spent seven years with Steaua's arch-rivals FC Dinamo Bucureşti before heading to Bulgaria in 2012.
• In the same year, Portuguese left-back Vitinha left Romania for Ludogorets. Between 2007 and 2012, he turned out for Steaua's domestic rivals CFR 1907 Cluj, CS Otopeni, FC Unirea Alba Iulia and CS Concordia Chiajna.
• New Ludogorets forward Younes Hamza scored against Steaua for FC Petrolul Ploieşti on 3 May 2012 in a 2-1 top-flight defeat.
• Steaua coach Constantin Gâlcă played as Romania lost 1-0 to Bulgaria in the group phase of EURO '96, an early Hristo Stoichkov goal proving decisive.