Champions League: Crusaders to face PFC Ludogorets of Bulgaria

Matthew Snoddy and Rasmus Falk in action during the Champions League qualifier at Seaview
Crusaders played FC Copenhagen in the 2016 Champions League qualifier second round

Crusaders have been drawn to play PFC Ludogorets in the first qualifying round of the Champions League.

The Irish Premiership champions are away to the Bulgarians, who have won their domestic title for the last seven seasons, in the first leg.

The first leg will be played on Wednesday 11 July, with the return game at Seaview on Tuesday 17 July.

The game in Bulgaria will have an 18:00 BST kick-off, with the return leg starting at 20:00 BST.

Cork City of the League of Ireland Premier Division will play Poland's Legia Warsaw after Tuesday's draw.

Great pedigree

"Ludogorets have got a great pedigree in the Champions League," said Crues captain Colin Coates.

"They drew at home to Liverpool a few years ago and only narrowly lost to them at Anfield, so that tells you about what level they are at.

"But I'm sure Stephen (Baxter) will work out a game plan for us over the next few weeks.

"Our biggest challenge will be securing a result away from home as it will be tough to keep our shape and discipline, especially in the heat.

"Apart from FC Copenhagen, we have proved in recent years in Europe that we can give anyone a match at Seaview, including Fulham and Rosenberg."

Crusaders last reached the Champions League in 2016, when they lost to then-Danish champions FC Copenhagen in the second qualifying round.

The Crues, who won the Irish Premiership title on the last day of the 2017-18 season, will earn a minimum £700,000 for their Champions League campaign.

Europa League

They competed in the Europa League in 2017, going out in the first qualifying round to an injury time goal against FK Liepaja in Latvia.

Ludogorets, meanwhile, reached the last 32 of last season's Europa League.

The draw for the 2018 Europa League first qualifying round takes place on 20 June.

Irish Premiership sides Coleraine, Cliftonville and Glenavon, along with the League of Ireland's Derry City, will be in the draw.