Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad were drawn against defending champions Real Madrid, five-time winners Liverpool and Basel in Group B of the Uefa Champions League in Monaco on August 28.
Ludogorets qualified for the first time for the group stage of the competition in dramatic fashion against Steaua Bucharest – trailing one goal from the first leg of the tie, the Bulgarian champions scored in the 90th minute through Wanderson to push the match into extra-time, when Ludogorets’ goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off with one minute to play.
Romanian defender Cosmin Moti, a former captain of Steaua’s domestic arch-rivals Dinamo Bucharest, put on the gloves and saved two penalties, as well as converting his team’s first spot kick, to book Ludogorets’ place in the group stage.
Ludogorets will open their Champions League campaign away at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium on September 16.
The draw will offer Ludogorets an opportunity to avenge last season’s loss to Basel in the play-off round, when the Bulgarian team lost 6-2 on aggregate. The Bulgarian champions then went on to have a successful campaign in the Uefa Europa League, winning their group and eliminating Lazio in the first knock-out round, before losing to Valencia in the round of last 16.
Ludogorets is making became only the second Bulgarian team to feature in the Champions League group stage. Levski Sofia was the only Bulgarian club to have managed the feat, in the 2006/07 season, when it was drawn against Barcelona, Chelsea and Werder Bremen – the club lost all of its matches, scoring only one goal and conceding 17.
The draw in full is as follows:
Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos Piraeus, Malmo
Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets Razgrad
Group C: Benfica, Zenit St Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco
Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht
Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Roma
Group F: Barcelona, Paris St-Germain, Ajax Amsterdam, Apoel Nicosia
Group G: Chelsea, Schalke 04, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor
Group H: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE Borisov
(Champions League trophy in FC Barcelona’s museum. Photo: daniel0685/flickr.com)