Ludogorets vs Anderlecht match facts | UEFA Europa Conference League

Bulgarian champions Ludogorets get their first taste of the UEFA Europa Conference League as they host Anderlecht in the first leg of the knockout play-offs.

The Razgrad club transferred to this competition after finishing third in UEFA Europa League Group C behind Real Betis and Roma, a Matchday 6 defeat in the Italian capital denying them a top-two place at their hosts’ expense. Anderlecht, meanwhile, secured springtime European football for the first time in six years by taking the runners-up in UEFA Europa Conference League Group B, albeit with a ten-point deficit on runaway winners West Ham United.

Previous meetings

The clubs have never previously met in UEFA competition.

Ludogorets’ only previous experience of Belgian opposition was in the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League group stage, when they lost home (1-2) and away (1-3) to Antwerp.

Anderlecht, conversely, are unbeaten in their four previous encounters with Bulgarian clubs (W3 D1) – though there have been none since 1977. On their last visit to Bulgaria, in the first round of the 1977/78 European Cup Winners’ Cup, which they went on to win, the Brussels club defeated Lokomotiv Sofia 6-1 with François Van der Elst scoring four of their goals.

Form guides

Ludogorets

Ludogorets made it 11 successive Bulgarian league titles in 2021/22 – the longest ongoing run of any current European club, one more than Germany’s Bayern München and two more than Austria’s Salzburg – but they endured disappointment on the European front as, after falling to Malmö in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, they finished bottom of their UEFA Europa League group without a win for the second successive season

The Bulgarian champions competed in the UEFA Europa League group stage for the sixth successive season this term, equaling the competition record. Having defeated Sutjeksa and Shamrock Rovers in their opening two UEFA Champions League qualifying ties, Ante Šimundža’s side fell in the third qualifying round at Dinamo Zagreb but recovered to beat Žalgiris Vilnius after extra time in their UEFA Europa League play-off. Their group campaign got off to a remarkable start when they ended a record 18-match winless run in the competition proper (D4 L14) by beating Roma 2-1 in Razgrad. However, they lost twice to Betis (2-3 a, 0-1 h) and, despite taking four points off HJK ​​Helsinki (1-1 a, 2-0 h), slipped down to third place with that last-day defeat in Rome, where they took the lead in a game they only needed to draw.

Ludogorets have recorded five home wins in Europe this season – more than in any of their previous ten continental campaigns – with defeats in the other two matches. They have yet to win at home in five previous post-Christmas European encounters, losing the last four, most recently 0-2 against Inter Milan in the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg (1-2 a).

Anderlecht

Anderlecht finished third in Belgium’s First Division A, ten points behind title winners Club Brugge, in 2021/22 – a campaign in which they returned to Europe after a two-season absence but could go no further than the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifying play- offs, losing to Vitesse (3-3 h, 1-2 y).

A penalty shoot-out victory spared Belgium’s record champions a similar fate this term as, having comfortably overcome Paide Linnameeskond in the third qualifying round, they belatedly came through their qualifying play-off against Young Boys on spot kicks. Anderlecht therefore went through to their first European group stage since the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League, securing second place on Matchday 6 by completing the double over Silkeborg (1-0 h, 2-0 a) after two draws against FCSB (0- 0 a, 2-2 h) and back-to-back defeats by West Ham (0-1 h, 1-2 a).

That decisive victory in Denmark was the fourth in Anderlecht’s seven UEFA Europa Conference League away games, qualifying phase included, all with clean sheets (D1 L2). However, they have won just two of their last ten European knockout fixtures on the road in the spring (W2 D1).

Links and trivia

Anderlecht brought in Brentford assistant Brian Riemen as their new head coach in December, the 44-year-old Dane replacing Felipe Mazzu.

Five Ludogorets players have played in Belgium: Sergio Padt (Gent 2011–14), Igor Plastun (Gent 2018–21), Dinis Almeida (Antwerp 2021–23), Olivier Verdon (Eupen 2019/20 loan), and Jakub Piotrowski (Genk 2018–20, Waasland-Beveren 2020 loan).

Padt was a Gent team-mate of current Anderlecht player Benito Raman, Verdon played alongside Anderlecht goalkeeper Hendrik Van Crombrugge at Eupen, and Plastun was a Gent team-mate of the Brussels club’s reserve keeper Colin Coosemans.

Anderlecht’s Israeli midfielder Lior Refaleov scored the winner for Antwerp away to Ludogorets on Matchday 1 of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League.

Ludogorets are one of six reigning domestic champions competing in the UEFA Europa Conference League knockout play-offs – along with CFR Cluj, Lech Poznań, Qarabağ, Sheriff and Trabzonspor.

In terms of European successes, Anderlecht are the most decorated club in the 2022/23 UEFA Europa Conference League knockout play-offs, having won the 1975/76 European Cup Winners’ Cup, the 1977/78 and 1982/83 UEFA Cups and two UEFA Super Cups (1976, 1978). The only other European trophy winners taking part in this round are Italian clubs Fiorentina (1960/61 European Cup Winners’ Cup) and Lazio (1998/99 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, 1999 UEFA Super Cup).

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