Ludogorets Razgrad vs Viktoria Plzen – Champions League Preview

Ludogorets Razgrad vs Viktoria Plzen – Champions League Preview

Ludogorets Razgrad vs Viktoria Plzen will represent the duel between the ultimate outsiders in the UEFA Champions League playoffs. Yet the draw between the Bulgarian and the Czech champions means that at least one of the two clubs will reach the group stage of Europe’s premium football event.

This is the first time that the two clubs will play each other in a competitive match. Ludogorets, however, defeated Viktoria Plzen 2-1 in a friendly winter preparation match in Turkey last January. Ludogorets’ Brazilian-Bulgarian star player Macelinho and Lucas Sasha scored the two goals for Ludogorets, whereas Matěj Končal scored for the Plzen.

Viktoria Plzen will therefore be warned to not underestimate the Bulgarians, as the Czechs will attempt to reach the group stage of the Champions League for the third time. Viktoria so far has a 100 per cent record in the playoffs, as they eliminated København (2011-12) and Maribor (2013-14) in their two previous playoff ties.

Ludogorets meanwhile will try to reach the Champions League group stage for the second time. In 2014 they overcame the Romanian club Steaua Bucharest to reach the group stage, where they made headlines when they beat FC Basel at home, and tied Liverpool 2-2 in the 2014-15 Champions League season.

Indeed in many ways Ludogorets are on their way to becoming the Shakhtar Donetsk of Bulgaria, as the club has become a prime location for Brazilians who want to make their mark in European football. The club currently has eight native Brazilians in the squad, some of whom hold Bulgarian citizenship—the club’s biggest star is Marcelinho, who now has Bulgarian citizenship and plays for the Bulgarian national team.

Owner, Kiril Domuschiev, an outspoken CSKA Sofia fan, had long tried to invest into his favourite club, but corruption, and ownership struggles at Bulgaria’s most successful club have caused Domuschiev to invest in Ludogorets instead, where he has managed to build an impressive Brazilian infused strike-force.

For the Brazilians meanwhile Ludogorets has become a good starting of point for a European football career. One prominent former Ludogorets player is Schalke’s Brazilian Júnior Caiçara, who was discovered by Schalke after Ludogorets’ last Champions League group stage participation. The example of Caiçara, especially, will motivate Ludogorets’ Brazilian armada to impress in Europe, in the hope that they will make the jump to a bigger western teams.

Manager Georgi Dermendzhiev prefers playing with a 4-2-3-1 formation, and in domestic competitions Ludogorets attempts to play an attractive offensive style of football. While Ludogorets played more defensively in the group stage two years ago, the club can be expected to play offensive football against Viktoria, which historically play in a 4-4-2 formation, with a focus on defence first.

It will be interesting to watch how Viktoria’s manager Roman Pivarník will prepare his club for Ludogorets’ Brazilian fleet, but with the Czech club’s experience in European football it can be expected that Viktoria are slight favourites in the tie.

Possible Line-ups

Ludogorets Razgrad:

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Stoyanov – Natanael, Palomino, Moti, Cicinho – Dyakov, Anicet – Wanderson, Marcelinho, Jonathan Cafú – Keseru

Manager: Kiril Domuschiev

Viktoria Plzen:

Formation: 4-4-2

Kozácik – Hejda, Hubník, Limbersky, Mateju – Horava, Hromada, Kopic, Kovarik – Bakos, Duris

Manager: Roman Pivarník

By Manuel Veth –