Over the next two Europa League games, Tottenham Hotspur take on the class of Bulgarian football for the last decade Ludogorets in back-to-back matches.
Often fans think of Europa League as a bunch of matchups between the giants of Europe and a bunch of minnows from a sundry of countries. However, anyone who thinks Ludogorets is just a minnow might not realize the hole the team has eaten through you if you overlook their squad. From this perspective Ludogorets is more of a cookie cutter fish and Tottenham Hotspur as the whale in the match-up better beware.
Tottenham Opponent Ludogorets
Ludogorets 1945 Razgrad was founded in 1945 as their name suggests. However, the club has gone through many iterations, with the club defunct as recently as 2005. In the 2009-10 season, the current iteration of the club was reborn and in September 2010 Ludogorets was purchased by Bulgarian businessman Kiril Domuschiev. As Spurs fans have seen in the Premiere League, sometimes all it takes is the right benefactor and everything can change and for Ludogorets, Domuschiev has been that benefactor.
Ludogorets had never been in the first division of Bulgarian football prior to the 2011-2012 season. However, since that season, no team other than Ludogorets has won the first division in Bulgarian football than 1945 Razgrad. The team started this run with style winning a domestic treble – one of two – in their first year in the top division.
Since winning the second league title and promotion in 2010, Ludogorets has won 15 domestic trophies, including nine straight league titles. This dominance has spread to Europe as well. Ludogorets has twice reached the UEFA Champions League Group Stage and has made the knockout stages of Europa League on three occasions. Again, this is a team Tottenham can overlook at their own risk.
Ludogorets is not just a team living on last seasons success, as the club has started this term quite strong. While Ludogorets dropped their first two matches in the Group Stage, they have only lost once since August in league. Having already played Lokomotiv Plovdiv this season, Spurs know that the Bulgarian efbet Liga is not pushover.
Ludogorets has a game in hand in league but still sit atop the table with 23 points from 10 games. 1945 are effective both offensively and defensively, having scored a league high 22 goals against only 9 conceded. Those nine goals against are even more impressive when considering only one other team in the 14-team league has given up single digits in goals. Ludogorets is even more effective defensively at home, where they have only given up 2 goals in league all season and 4 in all competitions.
1945 are likely to set up with a four man back-line, however, they have switched back and forth between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 formation this season. Of course, that was all with the previous regime as Stanislav Genchev was just appointed team manager in late October, yes like as in less than 10 days ago. Not only have Ludogorets recently lost their manager, they also lost their top goal scorer Higinio Marin, who broke his leg and is expected to be out until April, has six goals in 9 games for the club.
With Marin out, look for Claudiu Keseru to lead the line with Cauly and Mavis Tchibota on the two wings. Between the three they have scored 10 goals this season, so he attack is not completely blunted without Marin.
A big part of the Ludogorets defensive success has been Brazilian Alex Santana, the 27-year-old defensive midfielder who joined the club in July leads the team in minutes, appearances, and has 2 goals and 2 assists. Santana is not the only Brazilian in the club as Cauly is from Brazil as is right back Cicinho. The three Brazilians lead the team in minutes and have accounted for a combined 7 goals, 3 assists, and 7 yellow cards. Cicinho is susceptible to a getting yellows with five on the season. Look for Steven Bergwijn – one of our projected XI – to work to get Cicinho wound up and Spurs on the front foot.
All this said, Tottenham is the better football team, the more talented team, and the team that should win. Of course, we at HotspurHQ thought that last week and Spurs lost in Belgium and it is why we play the game. That said, the team knows the importance of the match – as Sissoko noted in his pre-game presser – and the hole the squad will be left in if they lose another group stage game. With all that in mind, Tottenham comes out motivated to prove a point and not let the Bulgarians believe they have a chance. As we have seen countless times, sometimes belief that you have a chance is all a team needs.