UEFA Europa League – Ludogorets-Milan – Ludogorets v Milan background
Ludogorets have enjoyed previous success at the UEFA Europa League round of 32 stage against Italian opposition, but they face a tough task to emulate their 2013/14 success against Lazio as they take on seven-time European champions AC Milan.
• The Rossoneri, making their debut in the UEFA Europa League, topped Group D, registering 11 points and scoring 13 goals, while their Bulgarian hosts made it through to the round of 32 for the third time with a runners-up placing behind Braga in Group C
• The teams have never met in UEFA competition.
• Ludogorets’ only previous encounters with Italian opposition came in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League round of 32 when they beat Lazio 1-0 in Rome before clinching the tie with a 3-3 draw in Sofia – after the Serie A club had led 2-0 and 3-2.
• Milan have won all five of their previous European knockout ties against teams from Bulgaria, most recently 3-0 on aggregate against CSKA Sofia in the second round of the 2001/02 UEFA Cup.
• Their overall record in ten games against Bulgarian opponents is W7 D2 L1 – they have won the last five matches.
• Ludogorets have lost only one of their last nine European fixtures (W4 D4) – although they are without a win in three (D2 L1) – and just one of their last six at home (W4 D1). That defeat came in their most recent outing at the Ludogorets Arena – 1-2 against İstanbul Başakşehir on matchday five.
• The club from Razgrad have not won any of their last five matches in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase (D2 L3).
• Milan were undefeated in their first nine European matches this season, winning seven of them (including the first six), all under previous coach Vincenzo Montella. That record ended with a 2-0 loss at Rijeka on matchday six – new boss Gennaro Gattuso’s first European game at the helm.
• The Rossoneri have qualified from each of their last 13 groups in UEFA competition and have now extended their involvement into the spring in every one of their 15 European campaigns this century.
• However, the Serie A club are without an away victory in springtime European competition since they beat Bayern München 2-0 in Munich in the quarter-final of the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League – a run of nine matches (D3 L6), during which they have conceded 22 goals.
• Milan have also lost their last three knockout matches, home and away, scoring one goal and conceding nine. They have won only one of their last seven knockout matches, losing five.
• 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 but lost 2-1 on aggregate to FC København (1-2 home, 0-0 away).
• Sixth in Italy last term, Milan are back in Europe after a four-year absence and making their first appearance in the UEFA Europa League. They reached the round of 32 in the last ever UEFA Cup of 2008/09, losing on away goals to eventual runners-up Werder Bremen (3-3 on aggregate).
Links and trivia
• Gustavo Campanharo is the only Ludogorets player to have played against Milan. He came on as a sub for Verona on 19 October 2014 as his side lost 3-1 at home. Milan’s only survivor from that game is Giacomo Bonaventura.
• Defender Cosmin Moţi has also played in Serie A, managing four games for Siena in 2008/09.
• Moţi is one of four Ludogorets players – along with captain Svetoslav Dyakov, Marcelinho and Virgil Misidjan – who helped to defeat Lazio in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League, although Dyakov missed the second leg after being sent off early in the second half during the 1-0 first-leg win in Rome. Milan’s Lucas Biglia played for the Italian club in both legs of that round of 32 tie.
• Milan’s Portuguese international striker André Silva scored the first hat-trick of the 2017/18 group stage on matchday one – in a 5-1 win at Austria Wien – and is the competition’s joint top scorer with six goals, alongside Zenit’s Emiliano Rigoni and Dynamo Kyiv’s Júnior Moraes.
• This is the only major UEFA competition that Milan have not won. Ajax, Bayern München, Chelsea, Juventus and – as of last May – Manchester United are the only five clubs to have won the European Cup/UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League and European Cup Winners’ Cup.
• Milan’s Nikola Kalinić was a losing UEFA Europa League finalist in 2015, his Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk side going down 3-2 to Sevilla in Warsaw.
• Seeking a seventh successive Bulgarian league title, Ludogorets led CSKA Sofia by a point at the winter break.
• Hired in the summer of 2017, Ludogorets boss Dimitar Dimitrov established his coaching credentials at home-town club Neftochimik Burgas and helped land Bulgarian titles with Litex Lovech (1997/98) and Levski Sofia (1999/2000), the latter in tandem with the Bulgarian Cup after he had been lured in mid-season from the Bulgarian national team. He subsequently pursued his career in the Middle East, Russia and Kazakhstan.
• Gennaro Gattuso replaced Vincenzo Montella as Milan coach on 27 November, earning promotion from the club’s youth team. A legendary Rossoneri midfielder of grit and endeavour who played for the club from 1999 to 2012, racking up 468 appearances in all competitions, he won both Serie A and the UEFA Champions League twice and also lifted the FIFA World Cup with Italy in 2006.