Ludogorets eye another run to the knockout stages
Unfancied Bulgarian champions Ludogorets are determined reach the knockout stages of a European competition for a second successive year despite being drawn against Champions League heavyweights Real Madrid and Liverpool, the club`s owner said.
Sofia: Unfancied Bulgarian champions Ludogorets are determined reach the knockout stages of a European competition for a second successive year despite being drawn against Champions League heavyweights Real Madrid and Liverpool, the club`s owner said.
Ludogorets, who reached the last 16 in the Europa League last season, were tipped to struggle in their first appearance in the Champions League`s group phase with holders Real Madrid and Liverpool considered overwhelming favourites in Group B and Basel expected to clinch the third place.
But Kiril Domuschiev, a wealthy businessman who began investing in the club four years ago mainly because his pharmaceutical company was based in the small town of Razgrad, is hoping The Eagles will prove experts wrong.
"Our goal is not to score two or three times and then to say that we surpassed Levski (Sofia)," Domuschiev told local media on Friday. "We won`t be satisfied by collecting a point or two.
"We want to progress by finishing second and continue in the Champions League or taking the third spot and continue in the Europa League."
Ludogorets became only the second Bulgarian team competing in the group stage of Europe`s premier club tournament after Levski, who finished bottom and without a point in their group, containing Barcelona, Chelsea and Werder Bremen in the 2006-2007 season.
Ludogorets were playing in the domestic third division before Domuschiev`s involvement in 2010 but then won two successive promotions and three consecutive titles.
The Razgrad-based side, coached by cool-headed Georgi Dermendzhiev, have impressed with their tenacity and ball skills but lost 2-1 to Liverpool after a penalty in added time in a pulsating match at Anfield on Tuesday.
"They have a budget of 250 million pounds ($408.35 million) and they said they`re even trying to tease more investors and they looked at us loftily: `How you can play in the Champions League with a budget of six million euros?" Domuschiev said.
"I tried to explain the reality in Bulgaria and it was interesting when they began saying that money were not the most important (factor) on the field after the match."
Ludogorets are the richest club in the Balkan country where many clubs face considerable infrastructure difficulties and are struggling to meet administrative, legal and financial conditions set by European soccer`s governing body UEFA.
Ludogorets will make their Champions League home debut on Oct. 1 against Real.
The match, however, will be staged at the 43,000-seater Vasil Levski national stadium in Sofia because the 8,000-capacity Ludogorets Arena is not suitable to host such games.
"Ticket requests show that the stadium will be full even if it`s a 150,000-capacity stadium," Domuschiev said.