Bulgaria’s Ludogorets to play Steaua Bucharest in Champions League play-off

Bulgaria’s three-time champions Ludogorets Razgrad were handed a short trip across the Danube River, drawing Steaua Bucharest as their opponent in the Uefa Champions League play-off round.

The first match, on August 19 or 20, will be played in Bucharest, with the return leg a week later to be played in Sofia – Ludogorets plays its European matches in the national stadium in the Bulgarian capital city because its own stadium does not meet Uefa criteria.

Ludogorets was initially due to be among the seeded teams, like Steaua, which would have prevented being drawn against the Romanian club, who won the European Champions Cup in 1986.

But Ludogorets was dropped into the un-seeded urn after Uefa decided to punish Legia Warsaw for fielding an ineligible player against Scottish champions Celtic on August 6, which resulted in a forfeit for the Polish champions and Celtic advancing to the play-off round instead of Legia.

This will be the second tie Ludogorets plays against a neighbouring country’s champion in this year’s Champions League qualifying. Earlier this week, Ludogorets eliminated Partizan Belgrade with an aggregate score of 2-2 – both matches ended in draws, 0-0 in Sofia and 2-2 in Belgrade, with Ludogorets advancing on the away goals rule. Last year, Ludogorets beat Partizan at the same stage of the competition as well.

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(Ludogorets’ players celebrate winning the club’s third title in as many seasons on May 7 2014. Photo: Ludogorets PFC via Facebook)