Bulgaria look to construct momentum following their shock midweek end in World Cup Qualifying Group C, as they welcome Lithuania to Sofia on Sunday.
Holding European champions Italy to a draw retains Yasen Petrov‘s aspect not less than theoretically within the race for qualification, whereas their guests have been crushed once more on Thursday and have but to get off the mark.
Having solely picked up their first level of the marketing campaign of their third Qatar 2022 qualifying match final March, Bulgaria approached in all probability their hardest job of the entire course of – an encounter with Italy in Florence – with some trepidation.
Nevertheless, a neat left-footed end from Atanas Iliev cancelled out a sensational opening objective from the Azzurri’s Federico Chiesa, and the Lions held on for a hard-earned 1-1 draw within the Tuscan capital.
Nonetheless, with solely faint hopes of reaching the playoffs for subsequent 12 months’s world gathering by a runners-up end – they path Switzerland by 4 factors, however the Swiss nonetheless have two video games in hand – Bulgaria usually tend to battle it out for third with the opposite Group C also-rans.
Their solely earlier level got here from a goalless attract Northern Eire, and so they have now gained simply two of their previous 29 matches – the newest being a pleasant victory over Gibraltar late final 12 months.
As they’ve didn’t qualify for the finals since 1998 – 4 years after famously ending fourth within the USA – Bulgaria’s drought is due to this fact set to proceed till 2026 not less than, however they’ll nonetheless take satisfaction in enchancment after a tough few years within the wilderness.
Whereas their hosts have been unable to make it to a World Cup to this point this century, Lithuania have by no means certified for the finals of any main match.
Even earlier than the present marketing campaign obtained below means, their document of only one win throughout qualification for the final World Cup in neighbouring Russia supplied a transparent indication of their inconceivable job in progressing – notably from a aggressive Group C.
The staff coached by Valdas Ivanauskas realistically solely have the inducement of battling Bulgaria to keep away from the picket spoon on this 5 staff group, but when they’re to get the higher of their Balkan counterparts within the remaining standings, then avoiding defeat for the primary time within the course of is a should.
That could be simpler stated than finished, although, as their final victory got here within the form of a 2-1 win over Kazakhstan in November final 12 months and the Rinktine’s most up-to-date setback was an eighth consecutive loss – this time by the hands of Northern Eire, as they have been crushed 4-1 on dwelling soil having conceded two second-half penalties.
Following on from their 4-0 pleasant defeat to Spain and a 3-1 reverse towards Latvia in two post-season friendlies, an combination of 11 targets leaked in three outings doesn’t bode nicely for the journey to Vasil Levski Stadium.
Bulgaria World Cup Qualifying – Europe kind:
Bulgaria kind (all competitions):
Lithuania World Cup Qualifying – Europe kind:
Lithuania kind (all competitions):
Yasen Petrov oversaw a courageous backs-to-the-wall effort in Italy earlier this week, so could make modifications to clean up his Bulgaria XI for the second of three video games in per week.
Ascoli striker Atanas Iliev was on the scoresheet in his adopted homeland, and he’s anticipated to affix Kiril Despodov in assault once more – although it stays to be seen whether or not Petrov will choose to retain a 4-3-3 formation or swap again to 2 males up entrance.
Having included uncapped CSKA Sofia ahead Kaloyan Krastev as his solely new call-up this month, the midweek debutant supplies another choice within the ahead line, however is extra prone to characteristic as a second-half substitute.
Lithuania, in the meantime, will nonetheless be with out new supervisor Valdas Ivanauskas on Sunday, after the 55-year-old examined optimistic for COVID-19 earlier this week. Ivanauskas – appointed simply final month – was because of lead his nation for the primary time in Vilnius on Thursday, however is now self-isolating.
The previous Hearts boss had already misplaced his captain, Lithuania’s most-capped participant, Saulius Mikoliunas to damage, so Rolandas Baravykas ought to deputise at right-back once more, having scored towards Northern Eire.
Within the absence of Mikoliunas, goalkeeper Ernestas Setkus is the senior citizen of the staff, aged 36, whereas younger striker Edgaras Dubickas is predicted to guide the road up entrance.
Bulgaria attainable beginning lineup:
Mihaylov; A. Hristov, Antov, P. Hristov, Nedyalkov; Malinov, Kostadinov, Chochev; Iliev, Despodov, Delev
Lithuania attainable beginning lineup:
Setkus; Baravykas, Satkus, Utkus, Vaitkunas; Megelaitis, Simkus, Verbickas, Novikovas; Cernych; Dubickas
We are saying: Bulgaria 2-0 Lithuania
Bulgaria’s objective menace has been missing of late, however they need to be capable to construct upon their relative success in midweek and put two previous a struggling Lithuania aspect.
The guests will not be solely on a protracted dropping streak, however have additionally misplaced their newly-appointed supervisor for this worldwide triple-header, so are set to stay pointless in Group C.
Supply: | This text initially belongs to Sportsmole.co.uk