Could the Bulgarian Barca pull off one of football’s greatest surprises?

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Ludogorets (Razgrad) is like a footballing prodigy. 2 years ago, the team from the small north-eastern town in Bulgaria competed in V Group, the third tier in Bulgarian football. And now The Eagles will attempt to enter the Champions League group stage for the first time in their history. But how in heck have  all these things happened?

In 2010, the local businessman Kiril Domuschiev purchased the club, provided it with solid funding and after Ludogorets had already been promoted to B Group, he bought enough quality players that the won a promotion to the A PFG – the top tier in Bulgarian football – for the first time in the club’s history.

Then, a massive selection was made, and a lot of new footballers arrived in Razgrad. It was time to write the first chapter of the fairytale.

The team, led by its young and ambitious head coach Ivaylo Petev, displayed some great football, similar to the one Barcelona presents. Of course, it is pretentious to compare these two clubs that seem to be like chalk and cheese, but, at the same time, it’s hard to critique the attractive game style Ludogorets impose. They try to play with many passes and have talented players to speed up their attacks, thus, entertaining football fans in Bulgaria. Even Bulgarian media started calling the team from Razgrad “mini-Barca”.

Success came soon. On May, 16, 2012, Ludogorets won their first Bulgarian Cup title, beating Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the final. A week later, in a title-decisive final game of the domestic championship The Eagles recorded a 1-0 victory over the most successful club in the country CSKA Sofia at Ludogorets Arena, the new modern stadium of Ludogorets.

Just a week ago the club completed a unique treble capturing the Bulgarian Supercup after defeating Lokomotiv Plovdiv. The Eagles are now treble winners, a feat that they pulled off during their first top tier campaign. The two most popular clubs in Bulgaria have completed the notable feat just once, despite competing in A Group respectively 64 (CSKA) and 99 (Levski) years.

As one of the best things that could have happened in Bulgarian football over the past few years, Ludogorets will now start their march towards the Champions League group stage. Only Levski, in 2006, from the clubs in the Balkan country, have managed to reach it before.

Having such a solid and well-balanced team, it isn’t a “mission impossible” for The Eagles to break through the top 32 teams in Europe. Although Ludogorets have a low UEFA coefficient and are unseeded even in the second round and their first opponents Dinamo Zagreb seem to be very strong, the Bulgarian champions can take advantage of their chances and succeed in knocking the Croatian top team out. What is more, there is a huge conflict between Dinamo fans and the board of directors of the club. UEFA even sent a final warning to the club to find a solution of the fans’ problem, as Dinamo supporters are known to be very aggressive and dangerous. If fans interrupt one of the games, either in Razgrad, or in Zagreb, The Blues will be excluded from the tournament.

An original form of protest is said to be in preparation by fans in Croatia – the idea being that all fans should support Ludogorets, instead of Dinamo, in Zagreb. Now that’s something I can get behind!

Despite Dinamo’s problems, Ludogorets should not underestimate a team that has won 7 consecutive titles in Croatia. Let’s hope that the footballers that play for The Eagles and the clearly marked game style can help the side overcome Dinamo and kick-off their European adventure.

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