Liverpool: Tiny Ludogorets should not be underestimated


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The Independent Football

On paper, Anfield should witness a complete mismatch on Tuesday when Liverpool end their five-year Champions League exile against Ludogorets Razgrad, yet whatever the outcome, for the Bulgarian double winners the match marks another historic milestone for a club only recently lifted out of obscurity.

Ludogorets’ executive director, Angel Petrichev, summed up their excitement after the draw had pitted them against Liverpool and Real Madrid in Group B. “We promised that Ludogorets would bring Europe’s finest to Bulgaria and that is now a reality,” he said.

Ludogorets’ rise is a very modern footballing fairytale. Razgrad is a town of 35,000 people in north-eastern Bulgaria and although in existence since 1945, the football club had never played in the top flight until the arrival in 2010 of Kiril Domuschiev, a wealthy businessman. With his investment, they gained promotion to the top flight in 2011 and have since won three successive A League titles.

Domuschiev has brought to the club talented Brazilian footballers like wing-back Junior Caicara and midfielder Marcelinho and this summer broke their transfer record to bring in the £1.2m Colombian defender Brayan Angulo from Spanish club Granada.

Ludogorets are investing in the redevelopment of their 6,600-capacity home ground and like last season they will play their European home fixtures 250 miles away in Sofia.

It did them no harm in the Europa League last term as they won their group ahead of PSV Eindhoven and then beat Lazio to reach the last 16. Anfield will be their biggest test yet but the way they came through their play-off against Steaua Bucharest suggests they do not lack nerve.