FC Steaua Bucureşti are yet to lose a game against Bulgarian opponents, but all that could change as they host PFC Lugogorets Razgrad in the UEFA Champions League play-offs.
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FC Steaua Bucureşti will hope their form against Bulgarian sides will hold as they take on PFC Ludogorets Razgrad in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off round tie.
• The sides are meeting for the first time in an official UEFA match, but went head to head in a friendly in England at the start of 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 Steaua have played eight previous matches against Bulgarian sides 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 all featured. It was Steaua's third successive two-legged win against the Sofia Army Men.
• Steaua have not lost in their last 16 qualifying round and play-off ties in UEFA competition since going down to Rosenborg BK over two legs in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. They are looking to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage for an eighth time.
• Ludogorets made their UEFA Champions League play-off debut last season, losing out to FC Basel 1893 before forging on to reach the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League. They are hoping to become the first Bulgarian side since PFC Levski Sofia in 2006/07 to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Ludogorets are coming into the first leg on a run of three straight qualifying draws.
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 feature in both legs, Steaua defender Iasmin Latovlevici will make his 50th UEFA club competition appearance in the second leg of this tie.
• Ludogorets boast Romanian talent in the form of defender Cosmin Moți, who goes into the first leg two games shy of his 50th 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 played for Steaua's league rivals CFR 1907 Cluj, CS Otopeni, FC Unirea Alba Iulia and CS Concordia Chiajna.
• New Ludogorets forward Hamza Younes scored against Steaua for FC Petrolul Ploieşti on 3 May 2012 in a 2-1 league defeat.
• Steaua coach Constantin Gâlcă featured as Romania lost 1-0 to Bulgaria in the group stage of EURO '96, an early Hristo Stoichkov goal proving decisive.