Bulgarian champions Ludogorets have found their way into the group stage again and begin at home to CSKA Moskva.
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After a busy summer of qualifying ties Bulgarian champions Ludogorets have found their way into the UEFA Europa League group stage for the third successive year and begin Group H with a home fixture against a CSKA Moskva side who are playing their first European game of the season.
• Ludogorets' eight seasons of European football have never featured any other matches against Russian opposition.
• CSKA's one previous encounter with a Bulgarian club was a 2-1 home win against Levski Sofia in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup group stage. It was the then holders' only victory in the section, however, and they failed to reach the knockout phase in defence of their trophy.
• Ludogorets' eighth consecutive Bulgarian league title earned them a place in this season's UEFA Champions League first qualifying round, where they lost both legs to Ferencváros – a team they will meet again in UEFA Europa League Group H, having subsequently knocked out 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 time 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 11 European home games over the past two seasons (W5 D4 L2). Their UEFA Europa League group stage record in Bulgaria is W3 D4 L2.
• CSKA finished fourth in last season's Russian Premier League, missing out on a spot in the UEFA Champions League, where they had been group stage participants for six straight years, but qualifying directly for a first UEFA Europa League group campaign since their only previous participation in 2010/11.
• They collected 16 points from their six group games in that 2010/11 campaign to top their section and progress to the round of 16, where they were eliminated by eventual winners Porto. Two seasons ago, having finished third in their UEFA Champions League group, the 2004/05 UEFA Cup winners made it to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, where they were knocked out by Arsenal.
• CSKA's only two away defeats in the UEFA Europa League, qualifying included, have come in those knockout phase eliminations by Porto (1-2) and Arsenal (1-4). Their overall away record in the competition is W6 D2 L2, and in their last European fixture on the road they defeated Real Madrid 3-0 in the Spanish capital on matchday six of last season's UEFA Champions League to complete a sensational double over the holders.
Links and trivia
• During the 2016/17 season Ludogorets defender Georgi Terziev was loaned to Croatian side Hajduk Split, where he was a team-mate of current CSKA midfielder Nikola Vlašić.
• CSKA coach Viktor Goncharenko was in charge of Kuban Krasnodar in 2013/14, when Ludogorets midfielder Stanislav Manolev was a member of the team.
• Ludogorets coach Stanislav Genchev won one of his seven caps for Bulgaria in August 2010 in a friendly against a Russia side featuring CSKA's Igor Akinfeev and Alan Dzagoev, who helped the hosts to a 1-0 win in Saint Petersburg.
• Genchev stepped up from his position as Ludogorets assistant coach in August 2019 to oversee the club's UEFA Europa League play-off elimination of Maribor just days after replacing Stoycho Stoev in the hot seat. A 38-year-old former midfielder with seven caps for Bulgaria, he only hung up his boots in June 2017 and went straight into coaching with his final club Etar. He won two successive Bulgarian league titles, in 2011/12 and 2012/13, as a player with Ludogorets – one of a dozen clubs he represented in an eventful career.
• Appointed by CSKA to replace long-serving coach Leonid Slutski in December 2016, Goncharenko had earned a growing reputation in Russian football, notably as Slutski's assistant. He made his name as a coach in his native Belarus at BATE Borisov, winning five straight league titles and leading the club into the UEFA Champions League group stage on three occasions. In his first full season as CSKA boss he led the Muscovites to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals and a runners-up spot in the domestic league.