UEFA Europa League – Hoffenheim-Ludogorets – Hoffenheim v Ludogorets background
Hoffenheim’s debut season in European competition will end with this fixture, but Ludogorets know that a win or a draw in Germany will secure their presence in the round of 32 for a second successive year.
• The Bulgarian side can also afford to lose and still go through if İstanbul Başakşehir fail to win the other Group C fixture at home to already-qualified Braga. Ludogorets will top the group if they win and Braga do not.
• In the teams’ first meeting on matchday two, Ludogorets got the better of Hoffenheim in Razgrad, coming from behind to win 2-1. Czech international Pavel Kadeřábek gave the German club an early lead, but second-half strikes by Svetoslav Dyakov and Jody Lukoki turned the match round, giving Ludogorets three points from their first match against German opposition.
• That was the first Bulgarian win in 12 years and 12 UEFA games between Bulgarian and German sides in UEFA club competition (D4 L7), though the three previous fixtures had ended in draws.
• Hoffenheim have scored in all seven of their European fixtures but have won only one of them, losing five.
• Ludogorets are unbeaten in five away games in the UEFA Europa League group stage (W4 D1) and have lost only once in nine away fixtures in the competition as a whole (W6 D2). They have kept clean sheets in their last four UEFA Europa League matches outside Bulgaria, posting three successive goalless draws before overcoming Braga 2-0 on matchday four.
• Beaten by Liverpool home and away in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, Hoffenheim are contesting the UEFA Europa League group stage in their debut season in European competition.
• Bulgarian champions for the past six seasons, Ludogorets reached the round of 16 in their only previous UEFA Europa League group stage campaign, 2013/14; they also played in last season’s round of 32 after transferring from the UEFA Champions League.
Links and trivia
• The journey from Razgrad to Sinsheim is around 1,500km.
• This will be Ludogorets’ 58th UEFA competition game, all in the past six seasons – and Hoffenheim’s eighth.
• Hoffenheim’s Kerem Demirbay and Ádám Szalai are suspended.
• Suspended for next match if booked: Natanael (Ludogorets); Dennis Geiger, Andrej Kramarić, Nadiem Amiri, Mark Uth (Hoffenheim).
• Hired in the summer of 2017, Ludogorets boss Dimitar Dimitrov established his coaching credentials at home-town club Neftochimik Burgas and landed Bulgarian titles with Litex Lovech and Levski Sofia, later coaching in Russia and Kazakhstan.
• Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann’s playing career ended prematurely due to persistent knee problems, but he shone as a youth coach and – aged 28 – took charge of Hoffenheim in 2016, becoming the Bundesliga’s youngest-ever senior boss.