Manuel Veth –
CSKA Sofia vs Zorya Luhansk – Thursday, August 8, 18:30BST/19:30CEST – Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski, Sofia, Bulgaria
After two decades of financial turmoil, bankruptcy and ressurection CSKA Sofia are beginning to re-establish themselves among Bulgaria’s football elite. Owned by a consortium that includes legendary former Bulgarian national team star Hristo Stoichkov the Bulgarian Red Armymen returned to Europe last season where they were eliminated in the third round of the competition by Copenhagen.
Runners-up last season CSKA came within one point of winning their first Bulgarian championship since 2008. Ultimately, the title went to Ludogorets Razgrad but the trend is CSKA’s friend, and there are some indications that the club is slowly but surely returning to become a true force in Bulgarian football.
Stoichkov’s football mind and sponsorship deals with Bulgaria’s largest telecommunication company Mte, as well as the gambling company WinBet lay the framework for such success. On the pitch CSKA got the job done in the last round to eliminate Croatian side NK Osijek on penalties. But domestically results have been mixed with just seven points from the first four games, not enough if head coach Ljupko Petrović wants to challenge for the title this season.
In the Europa League Zorya Luhansk will be Sofia’s biggest challenge this season. The Ukrainian side eliminated Buducnost Podgorica in the previous round (4-1 on aggregate) and twice have reached the group stage of the Europa League in the past.
Now coached by former Werder Bremen coach Viktor Skripnik, who took over from Yuri Vernydub this summer, Zorya also started the Ukrainian Premier Liha season with a win against Vorskla (1-0) and a 1-1 draw against Dnipro-1. Four points from two games is a good start, but Skripnik likes to play 4-3-3 attacking football and two goals in the first two league games will not be of the head coaches taste.
From a competitive standpoint, CSKA against Zorya will be an interesting affair. In terms of the level of play, there is not a large gulf between the two teams, but Zorya will have more experience in this competition, which should give them the edge overall.
CSKA Sofia vs Zorya Luhansk – Players to look out for:
Evandro #10 – CSKA Sofia
CSKA Sofia may have had a slow start to the season, but Brazilian striker Evandro has been on top of his game. The forward can be predominantly found on the left-wing, even if used in a two-man attack in a 5-3-2 and has already scored three goals in the first four league games this season as well as another two in three Europa League fixtures. Signed from Brazilian side Coritiba one year ago the 22-year-old forward scored just two goals in 20 league games last season but appears to have made a big step in his development this summer.
Vladlen Yurchenko #80 – Zorya Luhansk
Vladlen Yurchenko is back in Ukraine after stints at Bayer Leverkusen in Germany and Vejle BK in Denmark. Once considered a promising ball moving midfielder at Bayer Leverkusen, Yurchenko failed to make the next step in his development. In fact, it appeared the 25-year-old, despite his talent, was somewhat wasted at Bayer at times, he either did not fit in the concept of the various head coaches or struggled with fitness. A move to Denmark did not provide the hoped-for boost, and he is now looking for a fresh beginning back in Ukraine.
CSKA Sofia vs Zorya Luhansk – Match Stats
- The two teams have never faced each other.
- CSKA Sofia have faced Ukrainian competition on six different occasions and their record is W1 D1 L4.
- Zorya have never played against a team from Bulgaria.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: CSKA Sofia vs Zorya Luhansk – 1-1
CSKA Sofia vs Zorya Luhansk – Lineups
Busatto – Zanev, Albentosa, Antov, Tomás, Turitsov – Bikel, Carey, Diego Fabbrini – Evandro, Watt
Head Coach: Ljupko Petrović
Shevchenko – Mykhailichenko, Cheberko, Vernydub, Tymchyk – Yurchenko, Ivanisenia, Kocherhin – Khomchenovskyi, Budkivskyi, Hromov
Head Coach: Viktor Skripnik
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.