Ludogorets and Ferencváros, the respective champions of Bulgaria and Hungary, go head to head in Razgrad for a place in the knockout phase.
Article top media content
Ludogorets and Ferencváros, the respective champions of Bulgaria and Hungary, go head to head in Razgrad as they vie to join Group H winners Espanyol in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase.
• Ludogorets kicked off the group with a bang, winning their first two matches and scoring eight goals, but they have picked up just one point since, a 1-1 draw at CSKA Moskva on Matchday 5 that eliminated the Russian side. Ferencváros are one point below Ludogorets but would have been a point ahead but for the concession of a last-gasp equaliser to unbeaten Espanyol in Budapest, where they have still never won a UEFA group encounter. It means the Hungarian side must now win in Bulgaria, rather than draw, to take second spot, whereas Ludogorets will be through if they avoid defeat.
• The teams had never met before Ferencváros knocked Ludogorets out of the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round in July, winning both matches – 2-1 in Budapest and 3-2 in Razgrad. In the UEFA Europa League contest on Matchday 2, however, it was the Bulgarian side who ran out 3-0 winners in Budapest, Jody Lukoki's first-minute strike setting the tone before a double from Rafael Forster secured a comprehensive away win.
• Ludogorets' only other home game against Hungarian opposition came last season in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round against Vidi (now Fehérvár) and ended in a 0-0 draw, followed by a 0-1 defeat in the return.
• Ferencváros lost their first three UEFA matches in Bulgaria but have won the last two, this summer's success in Razgrad coming 28 years after their previous visit, when they also won 3-2, against Levski Sofia in the first round of the European Cup Winners’ Cup (and 7-3 on aggregate).
• Ludogorets' eighth consecutive Bulgarian league title earned them a place in this season's UEFA Champions League first qualifying round, where they fell to Ferencváros. They subsequently came through UEFA Europa League qualifiers against Valur, The New Saints and, in the play-offs, Maribor to reach the group stage of this competition for the third year in a row, and fourth in all.
• The Razgrad club were successful in their first two UEFA Europa League group stage participations, reaching the round of 16 in 2013/14 and round of 32 in 2017/18, but failed to win any of their six games last season (D4 L2), finishing bottom of a group containing Bayer Leverkusen, Zürich and AEK Larnaca. They also competed in the 2016/17 round of 32, having finished third in their UEFA Champions League group.
• Ludogorets have kept clean sheets in eight of their 13 European home games over the past two seasons (W6 D4 L3). Their UEFA Europa League group stage record in Bulgaria is W4 D4 L3, with Espanyol beating them 1-0 in the most recent fixture after Ludogorets had scored five second-half goals to overcome CSKA Moskva 5-1 on Matchday 1 – the only win they have posted in the UEFA Europa League proper in their last eight home matches (D3 L4).
• Ferencváros became champions of Hungary for a record 30th time last season, claiming their first title in three years. In Europe, however, they were ousted in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League by Maccabi Tel-Aviv (1-1 h, 0-1 a).
• This season, they won their opening two UEFA Champions League qualifying ties for the first time ever – against Ludogorets and Valletta (3-1 h, 1-1 a) – but bowed out to Dinamo Zagreb in the third qualifying round, losing 0-4 in Budapest (their joint heaviest home European defeat) after a 1-1 draw in Croatia. They ensured a debut UEFA Europa League group stage appearance, however, by defeating Lithuanian champions Sūduva in the play-offs (0-0 a, 4-2 h).
• Fradi have appeared in two previous European group stages – the 1995/96 UEFA Champions League and 2004/05 UEFA Cup. Their all-time away record in group stage fixtures (W3 D1 L3) is significantly better than their home equivalent (D5 L3).
Links and trivia
• Ferencváros are among six teams making their debut in the UEFA Europa League group stage this term and the only one still unsure of their fate going into Matchday 6. While Espanyol, LASK and Wolverhampton Wanderers have all booked their place in the knockout phase, Olexandriya and Wolfsberg have both been eliminated.
• Ludogorets and Ferencváros are both currently leading their domestic standings as they seek to retain their league titles.
• Aleksi Zhelyazkov was officially promoted from Ludogorets assistant coach to head coach at the end of October, effectively swapping positions with Stanislav Genchev. The 57-year-old from Burgas is predominantly known in his homeland as the right-hand man of former Bulgaria national team coach Dimitar Dimitrov. The pair started working together at Neftochimik Burgas in the mid-1990s, then for Litex Lovech, Bulgaria and Russian club Amkar Perm. He was later employed as an assistant to Ivaylo Petev, including one spell at Ludogorets, and in 2018 returned to the Razgrad club as chief scout.
• A glittering career as a player that brought Serhiy Rebrov 15 goals in 75 internationals for Ukraine – where he was the regular attacking partner to Andriy Shevchenko – and no fewer than 12 domestic league titles, nine of them over two spells with Dynamo Kyiv, has been followed by a highly promising start on the coaching front. Hired by Dynamo in 2014, he won the Ukrainian title in each of his first two seasons and was at it again in the 2018/19 Hungarian NB I campaign with Ferencváros, overseeing the club's 30th national title before steering them into the uncharted waters of the UEFA Europa League group stage.