Bulgaria – next stop for the Saints

Rhys Llwyd

Rhys Llwyd

Friday, 2 Aug 2019, 15:01

Following their defeat to FC København in the Champions League qualifiers, The New Saints will get a second chance to progress in Europe as they prepare to face Bulgarian champions, Ludogorets Razgrad, in the Europa League third qualifying round.

Ludogorets have won the Bulgarian championship for the eighth consecutive season and were definitely one of the clubs that TNS would have hoped to avoid in this round.

Ludogorets reached the last 16 of the 2013/14 Europa League, and the following year were in the same group as Real Madrid, Liverpool and Basel in the Champions League where they beat Basel twice and secured a 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

Arsenal and Paris Saint-German shared a group with Basel and Ludogorets in the 2016/17 Champions League – the Bulgarians finished 3rd in the group after two draws with Basel and a 2-2 draw at Paris.

AC Milan beat Ludogorets in the last 32 of the 2017/18 Europa League after they finished 2nd in their group, but Ludogorets failed to get out of the group last season despite only losing two of their six group matches (drew against Bayer Leverkusen, Zurich and AEK Lamaca x2).

Like The New Saints, Ludogorets started this season’s European campaign in the Champions League first qualifying round, but lost 5-3 on aggregate to Hungarian champions, Ferencváros.

They dropped into the Europa League second qualifying round where they saw off Valur of Iceland in the last round (5-1 on aggregate).

This is only the third time in TNS’ history that they’ve reached the third qualifying round in Europe, and win against Ludogorets would leave the Welsh Champions only one round away from the Europa League group stage.

The first leg will be played at the Ludogorets Arena on Thursday 8 August, with the second leg taking place at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham on 15 August.