Ludogorets play their first home game in the UEFA Champions League on match-day two when holders Real Madrid visit Sofia.
No one is giving the home side a chance in this game. For Ludogorets to even get a point, the Bulgarian champions for three consecutive seasons will have to play at the very top of their game and hope – better still, pray – their more celebrated opponents emulate their name and have a REAL off-day.
Stranger things have happened and who knows…
Below are the match backgrounds to Wednesday’s key games.
LUDOGORETS V REAL MADRID
• Georgi Dermendzhiev’s Bulgarian title holders made a promising start in the competition at Liverpool, losing only to an injury-time penalty in a 2-1 defeat.
• In qualifying for the group stage, Ludogorets played three home games, beating F91 Dudelange (4-0), holding FK Partizan (0-0), and then defeating Steaua Bucurest 1-0 prior to a 6-5 penalty shootout success.
• They went four games unbeaten at home in last season’s UEFA Europa League before succumbing 3-0 to Valencia in the first leg of an eventual 4-0 round-of-16 defeat. It was their first meeting with Spanish opposition.
• As they did last season, Ludogorets are playing their European home games 400 kilometres from Razgrad at the Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski in Sofia as their own Ludogorets Arena does not meet UEFA’s requirements.
• Madrid began their Group B campaign with a 5-1 home victory against FC Basel.
• They scored 20 goals in six away games in last season’s competition, winning four and losing just one – at Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals (0-2).
• Madrid won two of last term’s away matches by a club-record 6-1 scoreline – at Galatasaray in the group stage and Schalke 04 in the round-of-16 first leg. With that latter victory, they became the first away team to hit six in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds.
• Madrid won 1-0 at Levski Sofia on their only previous trip to Bulgaria in the first round of the 1979/80 European Champion Clubs’ Cup. That first-leg victory set up a 3-0 overall success.
ARSENAL V GALATASARAY
• Arsenal beat Besiktas 1-0 at home in this season’s play-off second leg, Alexis Sanchez scoring his first goal for the club, for the same aggregate score. That maintained their record of never losing over 90 minutes to Turkish sides.
• They have conceded just once in nine meetings, a 2008/09 group stage fixture at Fenerbahce which the Gunners won 5-2.
• Their overall record is W5 D4 L0 (W3 D1 L0 at home).
• Arsenal beat Fenerbahce 3-0 in Istanbul and 2-0 in London in last season’s play-offs.
• In the group stage for the 17th successive season, they departed last year in the round-of-16 for the fourth consecutive time, Bayern Munich ending their hopes for the second year in a row. Arsenal lost 2-0 at home and 3-1 on aggregate.
• Before Schalke 04 won 2-0 at the Emirate Stadium on match-day three in 2012/13, the London side had gone 45 home games unbeaten when facing non-English opponents. Including that defeat, they have lost four games (all against German visitors) while winning three of their last seven home fixtures in the competition proper.
• Galatasaray have not won in nine visits to English clubs, drawing three and losing six. Overall, their record is W3 D8 L7. Their latest defeat came in last season’s round-of-16, when they went down 2-0 at Chelsea FC after a 1-1 draw in Istanbul.
• The closest they came to victory was in the 1993/94 UEFA champions league second round. Having trailed 2-0 early on, Cimbom led Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford midway through the second half, only for Eric Cantona to conjure an 80th-minute equaliser. Their away goals proved crucial in taking the Super Lig side through after the home leg ended 0-0.
• Before last season, Cimbom had lost just three of their previous 19 European away fixtures, winning ten. After drawing 2-2 at Juventus on match-day two last season, they then lost their three subsequent away games.
• The Super Lig runners-up are in their 13th group stage campaign and their third in succession, having missed out in the five seasons before that.
BASEL V LIVERPOOL
• Including matches in the UEFA champions league and UEFA europa league, Basel had a strong home record in Europe in 2013/14: W5 D2 L1.
• They beat Chelsea away (2-1) and at home (1-0) in last season’s champions league group stage.
• Their overall home record against English teams is W4 D3 L4.
• Won their opening Group B fixture 2-1 against PFC Ludogorets, their first champions league fixture since December 2009.
• They prevailed 5-3 at BSC Young Boys on their last trip to Switzerland in the 2012/13 UEFA europa league group stage.
• They have never failed to score in Switzerland, totalling 14 goals over five games.
• The Reds’ overall record in Switzerland reads W3 D1 L1. The solitary defeat was a 2-1 loss at Servette FC in the 1971/72 European Cup Winners’ Cup first round; even then they won 3-2 on aggregate.
ATLETICO V JUVENTUS
• Atletico won five and drew one of their six home fixtures in last season’s champions league.
• Overall they have won 17 of their last 19 games at the Vicente Calderon in UEFA competition. The only defeat was a 2-0 loss to FC Rubin Kazan in the UEFA europa league round-of-32 in February 2013.
• Atletico’s home record against teams from Italy is W6 D0 L3, including a 4-1 victory against AC Milan in last season’s round-of-16.
• Juventus began their Group A campaign with a 2-0 home success against Malmo.
• They took just one point from their three away matches in last term’s UEFA Champions League, but then won three of four away fixtures in the UEFA europa league.
• Real Madrid were among their group stage opponents in 2013/14. Juve lost 2-1 in the Spanish capital and drew 2-2 in Turin.
• Juventus’ record in Spain is W3 D4 L14. Their record in Madrid is W2 D0 L5.
ANDERLECHT V DORTMUND
• The Belgian champions won their last Brussels encounter with German opponents, 4-3 against Hamburger SV in the 2009/10 UEFA Cup round-of-16, but went out 6-5 on aggregate. They failed to win any of their previous six, drawing two and losing four.
• Prior to a 2-1 second-leg win at Bayern Munich in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup round of 16 – they lost 6-2 on aggregate – Anderlecht had not won in 10 games against Bundesliga opposition.
• They have lost five UEFA champions league group stage encounters with German sides, managing just a solitary draw, 1-1 against Bayern in 2003/04. Overall their record against German teams is W12 D3 L16.
• Anderlecht are in the group stage for a third successive year – the first time in eight years that they have achieved that feat – and the 11th time in all.
• Last year they finished fourth in their group with just a single point, drawing away against Paris Saint-Germain. They lost all three home games, conceding 11 goals and scoring just twice.
• The Belgian champions have finished bottom of the group in all seven group stage campaigns since they reached the last 16 (qualifying for the second group stage) in 2000/01.
• In those six seasons Anderlecht have won just four fixtures and when they beat FC Zenit 1-0 on match-day four in 2012/13 it was their first home success in the UEFA champions league proper in 10 years.
• BVB won on their last visit to Belgium, 1-0 at KRC Genk in the 2004 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round, losing 2-1 at home. Their only other Belgian assignments were both against Club Brugge, losing 5-0 away for a 5-3 aggregate defeat in the 1987/88 UEFA Cup third round.
• In the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round Dortmund and Club Brugge won their home legs 2-1, Dortmund losing 4-2 on penalties.
• Winners in 1996/97 and runners-up two seasons ago, Dortmund are in their tenth group stage campaign.
• Last season they reached the quarter-finals, a 2-0 second-leg home win over Real Madrid CF not enough to overturn a 3-0 defeat away.
• Dortmund lost at Napoli but then won at Arsenal FC and Olympique Marseille and continued their winning ways at Zenit in the round of 16.
• They have lost just one of their last six away games in the group stage, winning three.
Wednesday’s Champions League fixtures:
Atletico Madrid v Juventus
Malmo FF v Olympiakos
FC Basel v Liverpool
Ludogorets v Real Madrid
Zenit St Petersburg v Monaco
Bayer Leverkusen v Benfica
Arsenal v Galatasaray
Anderlecht v Borussia Dortmund