Shamrock Rovers tackle Bulgarian champions Ludogorets in Razgrad on Tuesday night aiming for a superb outcome of their Champions League second qualifying spherical first leg conflict.
ere’s the lowdown on the League of Eire champions’ opponents and what the Hoops stand to realize from their European run.
Soccer in Bulgaria was utterly dominated by golf equipment from the capital, with 4 Sofia groups (CSKA, Slavia, Levski and Lokomotiv) successfully carving up the league title between them for 60 years till upstarts Ludogorets, from a tiny place referred to as Razgrad, got here alongside.
A small provincial, lower-league membership for many years, Ludogorets at the moment are owned by a billionaire proprietor in Kiril Domuschiev, who made his cash in pharma.
They have been promoted for the primary time in 2011, gained the league title that 12 months and have now been champions for 11 years working.
Okay, so that they dominated the roost at residence however what about in Europe?
The newly-minted membership had a first-round exit on their European debut however since then they’ve grown at a tremendous fee.
They beat Lazio to make it to the final 16 of the Europa League (2013/14), then made the Champions League group phases two years working.
During the last 5 seasons they exited the Champions League within the qualifying rounds however loved a back-door path to the Europa League, making 5 successive group stage appearances.
So that they’ve put Razgrad on the map?
Not likely. It is a tiny place, a inhabitants of simply 34,000, not even within the high 30 of Bulgarian cities inhabitants smart, on a par with Kilkenny and onerous to succeed in, because the Rovers occasion found this week.
The stadium holds 12,000 nevertheless it’s hardly ever full: final season the common gate for residence league video games was beneath 1,000 however they get round 5,000 for European visits by the likes of Liverpool and Actual Madrid.
How a lot are tickets?
Finest worth in Europe, match tickets for Tuesday night time’s recreation began at €4 with posh seats costing €7.50.
How ‘Bulgarian’ are they?
Not very. The supervisor is from Slovenia, and their beginning XI from a weekend league recreation had just one Bulgarian (and he is a naturalised Brazilian).
Have Rovers an opportunity?
Progress for Rovers can be a miracle, probably the largest achievement in Irish sport for the reason that rugby workforce gained some pleasant in New Zealand final weekend.
Ludogorets don’t lose early-round qualifying ties in opposition to golf equipment from a league like Eire and Ludogorets are a step above the Slovan Bratislava facet who knocked out Rovers just lately.
What occurs subsequent?
Ought to Rovers by some means win, they’d play both Croatian or Macedonian opposition within the Champions League third qualifying spherical, with one more spherical (playoff) earlier than the group phases.
If Rovers lose to Ludogorets, they’re going to face the losers of that tie between Dinamo Zagreb and Shkupi within the Europa League playoff spherical, with the potential to make the Europa League group phases.
And if Rovers lose that?
They’ve one other again door, this time into the playoff spherical for the Convention League, with an actual likelihood of constructing the group stage section which eluded them final 12 months.
How a lot will they make?
Rovers have already banked €1.4m for that first-round win, however with no less than 4 extra video games to come back even when they lose to Ludogorets, they’re going to take a minimal of €3.4m in UEFA prize cash.
Is the match on TV?
Sure, the primary leg will likely be beamed stay on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Participant tomorrow from 6.30pm (kick-off is 6.45pm Irish time).