Internazionale entertain Ludogorets in Milan protecting a 2-0 first-leg lead as they seek to maintain their 100% success rate in the round of 32.
Internazionale entertain Bulgarian champions Ludogorets in Milan protecting a handsome 2-0 first-leg lead as they seek to maintain their 100% success rate in the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
• Inter entered the UEFA Europa League after failing to negotiate a way through their UEFA Champions League section, finishing third behind Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, while Ludogorets edged through to the knockout phase from Group G behind Espanyol.
• The Serie A side left it late before overcoming Ludogorets in the first leg, a clinical strike from January signing Christian Eriksen putting the visitors 1-0 up on 71 minutes before Romelu Lukaku doubled Inter's advantage with an added-time penalty.
• Inter are now undefeated in six matches against Bulgarian sides (W3 D3), the last home game having been staged back in 1974 when they beat Etar 3-0 in the first round of the UEFA Cup, taking the tie on aggregate by the same score.
• Ludogorets' two previous ties against Italian opposition also came in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. They defeated Lazio in 2013/14 (1-0 a, 3-3 h) but lost to Inter's city rivals AC Milan in 2017/18 (0-3 h, 0-1 a).
• Fourth in Serie A in 2018/19, Inter's European campaign ended with defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 after they had finished third in their UEFA Champions League section behind Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur – the first time the Nerazzurri had failed to progress from their group in nine UEFA Champions League campaigns.
• History repeated itself this season as Inter could only manage another third place in their UEFA Champions League group, a closing 1-2 home defeat to Barcelona scuppering their chances and leaving them with seven points – one fewer than in the previous campaign.
• Inter have a perfect record in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, having won all of their previous three ties – against CFR Cluj in 2012/13 (2-0 h, 3-0 a), Celtic in 2014/15 (3-3 a, 1-0 h) and Rapid Wien in 2018/19 (1-0 a, 4-0 h). In each of those seasons, however, the three-time UEFA Cup winners exited in the round of 16.
• Inter have yet to concede at San Siro in three UEFA Europa League round of 32 victories. In the competition overall, qualifying included, their home record is W10 D4 L4, but they have won just two of their last seven European fixtures in Milan (D3 L2).
• Inter have won 16 of the 17 UEFA competition ties in which they have triumphed away from home in the first leg, including three times out of four by a 2-0 scoreline, the most recent case being against Romanian side Vaslui in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League play-offs (2-2 h). Their only aggregate defeat came in the third round of the 1988/89 UEFA Cup against Bayern München, when a Nerazzurri side containing Lothar Mathäus and Andreas Brehme, both recently recruited from Bayern, followed a 2-0 win in Munich with a 1-3 defeat in Milan and exited on away goals.
• Ludogorets won an eighth consecutive Bulgarian league title in 2018/19 to earn 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 Maribor to reach the group stage, where they had exited the competition last term.
• This season they made it through their group thanks predominantly to two big wins on Matchdays 1 (5-1 at home to CSKA Moskva) and 2 (3-0 at Ferencváros). They picked up just two further points thereafter, however, and fell to their heaviest European defeat when they went down 6-0 at Espanyol on Matchday 4.
• The Razgrad club are in the round of 32 for the fourth time. They won their first tie at this stage, against Lazio six years ago, but lost the other two, against Copenhagen in 2016/17 (1-2 h, 0-0 a) and Milan the season afterwards.
• Having won their first four away fixtures on their debut UEFA Europa League participation, Ludogorets have been victorious in only two of the subsequent 12 (D6 L4). They have failed to score in their last three European springtime matches on the road (D1 L2), their only away goal in a continental knockout phase fixture being Roman Bezjak's winner at Lazio six years ago. The first-leg result means they have now gone five European games, home and away, without a victory (D2 L3).
• Ludogorets have been eliminated on each of the five occasions that they have lost the first leg of a European tie at home, most recently against Milan at this stage of the UEFA Europa League two years ago. This is the first time that the home leg has finished 0-2.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Victor Moses (Chelsea, loan), Ashley Young (Manchester United)
Out: Kwadwo Asamoah, Federico Dimarco (Hellas Verona), Valentino Lazaro (Newcastle, loan), Matteo Politano (Napoli, loan)
In: Cauly (Paderborn), Vladislav Stoyanov, Taleb Tawatha
Out: Jacek Góralski (Kairat), Jody Lukoki, Renan
Links and trivia
• Opposing coaches Antonio Conte and Pavel Vrba were both in charge of their respective countries, Italy and the Czech Republic, at UEFA EURO 2016.
• Inter's Antonio Candreva was in the Lazio side eliminated from the round of 32 by Ludogorets in 2013/14, while Marcelo Brozović's Dinamo Zagreb suffered home and away defeats by the Bulgarian club that same season in the group stage.
• Ludogorets' Romanian defender Cosmin Moţi had a short spell on loan in Italy at Siena in 2008/09, making just four Serie A appearances.
• Alexis Sánchez played for Arsenal in both UEFA Champions League group stage games against Ludogorets in 2016/17, opening the scoring in the 6-0 home win.
• Ludogorets' final total of eight points was the lowest of all the 24 qualifying teams that came through this season's UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Inter's record in four UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W2 L2:
5-4 v Celtic, 1971/72 European Champion Clubs' Cup semi final
3-4 v Aston Villa, 1994/95 UEFA Cup first round
5-3 v Grazer AK, 1996/97 UEFA Cup second round
1-4 v Schalke, 1996/97 UEFA Cup final
• Ludogorets' record in one UEFA penalty shoot-out is W1 L0:
6-5 v Steaua Bucureşti, 2014/15 UEFA Champions League play-off
• A combative and versatile midfielder, Conte is most commonly associated with Juventus, where he spent 13 seasons as a player, winning a treasure trove of trophies including the 1995/96 UEFA Champions League. He also coached the club to three successive Serie A titles between 2012 and 2014, going on to take charge of Italy for two years, including the UEFA EURO 2016 finals, and then leaving for Chelsea, where he won the Premier League and FA Cup before being replaced by compatriot Maurizio Sarri. After a year's sabbatical, Conte was appointed as Inter boss in May 2019.
• Vrba was appointed as the new Ludogorets head coach on 18 December, joining the club from Viktoria Plzeň. After stints as Czech Republic and Anji coach, leading the former at UEFA EURO 2016 in France, he rejoined Plzeň in June 2017 having previously steered the club to two domestic championship titles in 2011 and 2013 during his first (five-year) spell. He made it three championships in 2018 and also led the club into the UEFA Champions League group stage for the third time. Once a Baník Ostrava player and coach, he won the 2006/07 Slovak title as Žilina boss.