Bulgarian CSKA Sofia will take on Romanian champions CFR Cluj in the first round of the 2020-21 UEFA Europa League group stage on Thursday, 22 October 2020.
CSKA Sofia and CFR Cluj are located in Group A of the UEFA Europa League alongside Italian AS Roma and Young Boys of Switzerland.
This will be one of the matches that are open for fans in the stadium as the Bulgarian authorities have allowed up to 30 per cent (13, 000 spectators) of the capacity to be available.
CSKA Sofia Betting Preview
CSKA Sofia have failed to win a domestic league game again, coming off a 1-1 home draw with Beroe Stara Zagora on Saturday. This leaves them winless in five league games (drawing in four) – since a dramatic stoppage-time 1-0 victory over Slavia Sofia on 30 August, yet their European campaign has exceeded their best expectations in the meantime.
Kicking-off their European journey from the first qualifying round, Stamen Belchev’s side have already eliminated the likes of Sirens (Mala), BATE Borisov (Belarus) and B36 Torshavn (Faroe Islands) en route to the play-off round, where CSKA Sofia managed to beat the odds when The Reds triumphed 3-1 at Basel. As a result of their winning streak, The Armymen returned to the Europa League group stage for the first time since 2010-11.
Stamen Belchev will likely make changes to the squad that eliminated Basel in the play-offs.
Tiago Rodrigues was the golden substitution at St. Jakob Park as he netted twice to mark CSKA Sofia’s comeback agains Basel and the Portuguese playmaker is set to start here, meaning that either Geferson or Amos Youga should sit on the bench.
Experienced-skipper Petar Zanev returned to first-team action following a long recovery from his coronavirus experience and could start alongside domestic youngster Valentin Antov, who wore the captain armband during his absence, while summer signing Jurgen Mattheij may have to settle for a place on the bench.
Defender Plamen Galabov, who started in all Europa League games so far, received a blow to the ribs during the 2-2 draw with Etar prior to the break and is yet to resume full training. With that said, French defender Thibaut Vion and domestic youngster Ivan Turitsov are competing for the right-back spot. A tough call – as the latter lacks match practice while his French teammate is still not in optimal shape.
Ali Sowe’s transfer has failed in the last moment as he was set to join the French Ligue 1 club Dijon, but the Gambian forward will stay at CSKA Sofia for another few months, at least. He is set to lead the line against CFR Cluj, even though fellow-forward Ahmed Ahmedov scored the third goal against Basel.
CFR Cluj Betting Preview
Dan Petrescu’s side are still unbeaten in the Romanian League, coming off a 2-1 home win over Botosani in their first match after the break.
Despite their unbeaten form (4 wins and 3 draws), The Railwaymen are third in the domestic league, six points behind leaders Universitatea Craiova who are yet to drop a point.
In fact, CFR Cluj are yet to lose a game in regular play, having been knocked out of the Champions League qualifications by Dinamo Zagreb after a penalty-shootout. However, they’ve continued their European campaign in the UEFA Europa League and have reached the group stage following victories over two Scandinavian sides – Djurgarden (1-0 in Sweden) and KuPS of Finland (3-0 at home in the play-offs).
CFR Cluj are in the Europa League group stage for a second successive season as they even reached the knockout phase in 2019-20, when the Romanians were knocked out by future champions Sevilla in the round of 32. However, it’s worth to mention that CFR Cluj have not lost in both rounds as they were eliminated due to the away goals rule following a 1-1 draw in Cluj-Napoca in the first leg and a goalless draw in Sevilla.
Gabriel Debeljuh scored his second goal in the League over the weekend and fourth across all competitions and the Croatian forward will likely lead the Romanian attack in Sofia. He is set to feature alongside Venezuelan veteran Mario Rondon should Petrescu opts for a 4-4-2 formation in Sofia.
One of the key players – midfielder Mihai Bordeianu – followed the steps of his former teammate Giedrius Arlauskis as he joined a Saudi Arabian club and the Champions of Romania were quick to find a replacement in William Soares da Silva, who arrived from Portugal’s Gil Vicente.
Experienced Romania international Iasmin Latovlevici joined CFR Cluj and could be an option to start at left-back, while winger Nicolae Carnat, who arrived from Sepsi, would boost Dan Petrescu’s attacking options as well.
Defender Andrei Burca remains questionable as he missed the weekend clash against Botosani but the Romania international will surely start if he’s fit.
Possible Starting Lineups of CSKA Sofia and CFR Cluj
CSKA Sofia: Gustavo Busatto – Ivan Turitsov, Valentin Antov, Petar Zanev, Bradley Mazikou – Younousse Sankhare, Amos Youga – Georgi Yomov, Tiago Rodrigues, Jules Keita – Ali Sowe. (4-2-3-1)
CFR Cluj: Cristian Balgradean – Camora, Andrei Burca, Paulo Vinícius, Mateo Susic – Alexandru Paun, Ovidiu Hoban, Damjan Djokovic, Alexandru Chipciu – Mario Rondon, Gabriel Debeljuh. (4-4-2)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
This matchup seems to be pretty balanced and we expect to see goals at the National Stadium Vasil Levski in Sofia.
Spooky Express Free Play: Over 2 Goals -127 @ BetOnline for 7/10 Units