Ludogorets can rely on good recent form against German clubs as they welcome Leverkusen to Bulgaria.
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Bulgarian champions for the last seven seasons, Ludogorets have already negotiated eight UEFA club competition matches this term. For the ninth they welcome to Razgrad a Bayer Leverkusen side appearing in Europe for the first time in 18 months.
• The clubs have never met, but Ludogorets have recent good form against German opposition. They took four points off Hoffenheim in last season's UEFA Europa League group stage, recording a 2-1 home win during which Svetoslav Dyakov and Jody Lukoki found the net. Wanderson was on target in the 1-1 away draw.
• Leverkusen's only 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' 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 have been 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 have yet to concede at home in four European games this term (W3 D1), scoring 12 goals. Their UEFA Europa League group stage record in Bulgaria is W3 D2 L1.
• 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 both extended into the knockout phase. 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 only one of their last seven European away games (W2 D4) but have not scored more than once in any of those matches.
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 were UEFA Cup winners in 1987/88 and are one of six former champions in this season's group stage, along with Sevilla, Chelsea, Zenit, Anderlecht and Eintracht Frankfurt.
• A Brazilian coach of vast and varied experience whose many ports of call include Benfica, Botafogo, Santos and the national teams of Peru and Qatar, Paulo Autuori added a new country to his managerial CV when he was appointed by perennial Bulgarian champions Ludogorets in June 2018, succeeding Dimitar Dimitrov as head coach after initially being given the director of football role. His most notable success in 43 years as a coach was a Copa Libertadores/FIFA Club World Cup double with São Paulo in 1995.
• A former German international striker, Heiko 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.