Valencia in sight of Ludogorets success
Saturday, 15 March 2014
Valencia CF look to have their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie against PFC Ludogorets Razgrad sewn up as they bid to defend a 3-0 lead at home against the Bulgarian champions.
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Valencia CF need only avoid a remarkable reversal of fortunes to make it through to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals after taking a 3-0 lead from the away leg of their tie against PFC Ludogorets Razgrad.
• Antonio Barragán (5) put Valencia in front, and though Seydou Keita was dismissed (24), Roman Bezjak's penalty was saved and Fede Cartabia (33) and Philippe Senderos (59) scored again for the visitors before the dismissal of Juninho Quixadá (80) completed a miserable night for Ludogorets. It was their worst defeat, home or away, in Europe.
• Ludogorets have yet to win a European away fixture by more than two goals, their best result having been a 2-0 win at PSV Eindhoven in this season's group stage.
• The first leg was Ludogorets' first encounter with Spanish opposition. Valencia's only previous meeting with Bulgarian opponents in UEFA competition came against PFC CSKA Sofia in the 1978/79 UEFA Cup first round, where they lost 2-1 away, then won 4-1 at home.
• They also met PFC Slavia Sofia in the 1969/70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup first round – the non-UEFA affiliated precursor to the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League – losing 2-0 in Sofia and drawing 1-1 at home.
• Bulgarian sides' record in 38 UEFA competition encounters with Spanish opponents is W8 D4 L26 (W0 D1 L17 in Spain, plus a 3-1 defeat for CSKA in a 1959/60 European Champion Clubs' Cup first round replay staged on neutral territory in Geneva).
• The Spanish side has come out on top in the last seven meetings between the nations' clubs, with ten games having passed since the last Bulgarian win – PFC Slavia Sofia's 1-0 home success against CA Osasuna in the first round of the 1991/92 UEFA Cup. Even then Osasuna won the second game 4-0.
• Valencia are unbeaten in eight European fixtures (W6 D2) since a 3-0 home loss to Swansea City AFC in September. However, they have won only one of their last six home games in Europe (W1 D3 L2) – a 5-1 victory against FC St Gallen in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Ludogorets have won all four of their UEFA Europa League away games this season after losing to FC Basel 1893 in the UEFA Champions League play-offs.
• Valencia reached the semi-finals in their most recent UEFA Europa League campaign, losing to eventual winners Atlético in 2011/12.
• Ludogorets were only promoted to the Bulgarian top flight for the first time in 2011, but won back-to-back titles, and are now enjoying by far the best of their two campaigns in Europe. They lost to GNK Dinamo Zagreb in the second qualifying round of last season's UEFA Champions League.
• This season Ludogorets progressed through the group stage in style (W5 D1), and were unbeaten at home in the UEFA Europa League (W2 D2) until the first leg with Valencia. They are the first Bulgarian club to make it through the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Ludogorets boast Spanish talent in the form of winger Dani Abalo, who represented RC Celta de Vigo (2006-13) and CF Gimnástic de Tarragona (2012, loan) in his home country before moving abroad.
• Ludogorets' Bezjak is the second highest scorer in this season's competition with six goals in 497 minutes of football – an average of a goal every 83 minutes. FC Salzburg's Jonatan Soriano tops the rankings with seven goals.
• Ludogorets' Marcelinho has had more shots off target (14) than any other player in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League.
• Ludogorets' Svetoslav Dyakov has received six yellow cards since the start of the group stage – more than any player left in this season's competiton.
• Ludogorets have been awarded two penalties in Europe this season and have had both of them saved: Dyakov against SS Lazio in the round of 32, and now Bezjak against Valencia.
• Ludogorets right-back Junior Caiçara is one of only three players left in the competition who have played all 810 minutes of the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League since the start of the group stage; the others are AZ Alkmaar midfielder Nemanja Gudelj and FC Salzburg goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi.
• Spain and Italy are the best represented nations in the round of 16 with three clubs apiece.
• Ludogorets conceded the second fastest goal in UEFA Europa League history on matchday eight, Keita Baldé registering 16.88 seconds into their 3-3 draw against Lazio. The quickest remains Ismael Blanco's effort for AEK Athens FCagainst FC BATE Borisov in a November 2009 group game.
• Tottenham Hotspur FC, Ludogorets and Real Betis Balompié boasted the meanest defences in this season's group stage with just two goals conceded each.
• Ludogorets are one of five domestic champions still involved along with FC Basel 1893 (Switzerland), Juventus (Italy), FC Viktoria Plzeň (Czech Republic) and FC Porto (Portugal).
• Valencia (2004) are one of six previous UEFA Cup winners in the round of 16 along with SSC Napoli (1989), FC Porto (2003, 2011), Tottenham Hotspur FC (1972, 1984), Sevilla FC (2006, 2007) and final hosts Juventus (1977, 1990, 1993).
• Valencia dismissed Miroslav Djukić in December after six months at the helm.
• Juan Antonio Pizzi is now in charge at Valencia, having returned to Spain – for whom he made 22 international appearances – after establishing himself as a coach in South America. Born in Argentina, the striker played for CD Tenerife and Valencia before winning a title, two Spanish Cups and the 1996/97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with Barcelona. Following spells with Porto and Villarreal CF, he hung up his boots in 2002, and briefly played polo.
• 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 classes Arrigo Sacchi as his coaching idol. After taking charge of a number of smaller Bulgarian clubs, he led Ludogorets – his local side – to their first UEFA Europa League group stage campaign after defeat by Basel in the UEFA Champions League play-offs.
• Valencia's record in four UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W2 L2:
3-4 (away) v FC Steaua Bucureşti, 2004/05 UEFA Cup round of 32
4-5 (neutral) v FC Bayern München, 2000/01 UEFA Champions League final
5-4 (away) v Celtic FC, 2001/02 UEFA Cup third round
5-4 (neutral) v Arsenal FC, 1979/80 European Cup Winners' Cup final
• Ludogorets have yet to be involved in a UEFA shoot-out.