Ludogorets v Leverkusen facts
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Leverkusen are already through from Group A and take on Ludogorets, who are out, looking to secure first place.
Article top media content
Bayer Leverkusen's place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 is guaranteed thanks to results on matchday four, whereas Ludogorets can no longer finish in the top two. The German club will cement top spot in Group A if they beat Ludogorets and Zürich, who are also through, lose at home to eliminated AEK Larnaca.
• Although Leverkusen lost 3-2 away to FCZ on matchday three, they have a head-to-head away goals advantage over the Swiss club thanks to their subsequent 1-0 home win against the same opponents. They also claimed maximum points from their first two matches, winning 3-2 in Bulgaria and 4-2 at home to AEK.
• Defeated in their opening two games, including 0-1 at Zürich, Ludogorets drew twice against AEK (1-1 away, 0-0 at home) – results that ended the qualifying hopes of both sides.
• The clubs had never met before matchday one, when Leverkusen came from two goals down to win 3-2 in Bulgaria, Kai Havertz scoring twice including the 69th-minute winner.
• Leverkusen's only other encounters with a Bulgarian club brought back-to-back 1-0 defeats against CSKA Sofia in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup first round. That is the only one of the German side's last 16 European campaigns that did not feature group stage involvement.
• Ludogorets took four points off Hoffenheim – their first ever German opponents – in last season's UEFA Europa League group stage, recording a 2-1 home win then a qualification-clinching 1-1 draw in Germany, with Wanderson scoring the visitors’ goal.
• Leverkusen booked direct access to the UEFA Europa League group stage by finishing fifth in last season's Bundesliga.
• This is the Rhinelanders' third UEFA Europa League group stage participation, the previous two, in 2010/11 and 2012/13, having likewise extended into the knockout phase, where they also competed in 2015/16 after transferring over from the UEFA Champions League. The club's two UEFA Cup group stage campaigns, in 2006/07 and 2007/08, were also successful, both ending in the quarter-finals.
• The Werkself have lost just one of their last nine European home games (W3 D5) and are unbeaten at the BayArena in the UEFA Europa League group stage (W6 D2), keeping clean sheets in six of those eight matches.
• Ludogorets' seventh consecutive Bulgarian league title earned them a place in this season's UEFA Champions League first qualifying round. Having seen off Crusaders 9-0 over two games, they then lost to Hungarian champions Vidi to move into the UEFA Europa League, where they eliminated Zrinjski and Torpedo Kutaisi to reach the group stage of the competition for the second year in a row – and third time in all.
• The Razgrad club were successful in each of their previous two UEFA Europa League group stage participations, reaching the round of 16 in 2013/14 and round of 32 in 2017/18. They also competed in the 2016/17 round of 32, having finished third in their UEFA Champions League group.
• Ludogorets boast an impressive record on their travels in the UEFA Europa League, having lost just three of their 15 away matches, qualifying included (W6 D6), and never conceded more than once in any of those games. The matchday two loss at Zürich (0-1) is their only defeat in eight group stage matches outside Bulgaria (W4 D3).
Links and trivia
• Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich won the third of his five caps for Germany in a 3-2 defeat by Bulgaria in a memorable EURO '96 qualifier on 7 June 1995 in Sofia.
• Leverkusen lifted the UEFA Cup in 1987/88 and are one of six former winners of the trophy in this season's group stage, along with Sevilla, Chelsea, Zenit, Anderlecht and Eintracht Frankfurt.
• Ludogorets striker Claudiu Keşerü, who opened the scoring in the home defeat against Leverkusen, holds the record for the fastest hat-trick scored in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, finding the net three times in ten minutes for FCSB against Aalborg in a 6-0 win on 18 September 2014.
• A former German international striker, Herrlich began his professional playing career at Leverkusen, with whom he won the German Cup, before going on to star for Borussia Mönchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund, winning the UEFA Champions League with the latter in 1997. He took over as Leverkusen coach in June 2017 following spells with German youth selections and in lower-league football and led the Rhinelanders to a fifth-place Bundesliga finish in his debut campaign.
• Antoni Zdravkov is the new head coach of Ludogorets having stepped up from the assistant post he filled under previous boss Paulo Autuori, who left the club in early October. A former defender who began his playing career in the mid-1980s with Levski Sofia and played three times for Bulgaria, Zdravkov had a short spell as Levski coach before taking charge of Bulgaria's Under-21 side from October 2014 until June 2018, when he left to join Autuori at Ludogorets.