CSKA Sofia will take on BATE Borisov at the Bulgarska Armia Stadium in the second qualifying round of the 2020-21 UEFA Europa League on Thursday, 17 September 2020.
CSKA Sofia Betting Preview
Unbeaten in regular play since 29 February, when they suffered a shock defeat to Tsarsko Selo, CSKA Sofia have only lost once since but that happened in the Bulgarian Cup Final in early-July, when they were defeated on penalties by Lokomotiv Plovdiv.
The Reds are set for an important week as they’ll first host BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers before they take on rivals Ludogorets Razgrad in the domestic league on Sunday.
Even though they’re still unbeaten this season, the Reds had to survive a real nightmare in their Europa League opener as they mounted a dramatic late comeback to beat Malta’s Sirens 2-1 prior to the international break and this has to be a warning that Bulgarian teams are not in condition to underestimate anybody nowadays.
CSKA Sofia are third in the Bulgarian First League table, level on points with second-placed Beroe and one point behind leaders and defending champions Ludogorets Razgrad.
Stamen Belchev’s side had a tricky visit against Cherno More on Saturday and Tomi Juric’s late equalizer saved a point for them, though the hosts were down to 10 men for almost thirty minutes, yet they missed a penalty when the score still was 1-0 early in the second-half.
Experienced midfielder Younousse Sankhare, who joined CSKA Sofia from French Ligue 1 side Bordeaux this summer, is set to return to the starting XI having missed last weekend’s visit to Cherno More due to suspension.
Veteran Petar Zanev, who has recently been named captain of the Bulgarian national team, tested positive for coronavirus alongside striker Ahmed Ahmedov and the pair won’t be available for the upcoming Europa League clash against the Belarusian side.
With Zanev not available for selection, youngster Valentin Antov, who also captained the squad against Cherno More, should once again pair with summer signing Jurgen Mattheij at centre-back, in what seems to be the the most vulnerable field of CSKA Sofia’s formation right now.
Australian forward Tomi Juric scored his first goal for CSKA Sofia since he joined the Bulgarian side last August and this should be very well received by Stamen Belchev, who has just one typical centre-forward available – Gambian striker Ali Sowe – with Ahmed Ahmedov quarantined. This means that Juric could also be an option, but we believe that Ali Sowe should start and CSKA Sofia’s head coach will add another striker only if BATE Borisov take the lead.
Portugal midfielder Tiago Rodrigues – one of the most consistent performers over the last few seasons – is not fit to start but could play a role from the bench.
BATE Borisov Betting Preview
Winning the domestic top-flight every year between 2006 and 2018, BATE Borosiov’s hegemony has finally been ended by FC Dynamo Brest in 2019.
While the whole world was locked and professional sport was suspended, Belarus was the only place where competitive football wasn’t affected by the pandemic and many people were watching the Belarusian Premier League, which is usually not attracting any interest as one of the low-ranked championships in Europe.
However, BATE Borisov established a very decent reputation over the past decade and everything started with a remarkable run in the 2008-09 Champions League qualifiers, including a crucial victory against CSKA Sofia’s arch rivals Levski Sofia that sealed their first qualification into the Champions League group stage.
Since then, BATE Borisov often play in either the Champions League or the Europa League group stages and have gained considerable experience, unlike their opponents who have failed to achieve something special over the past decade.
Kirill Alshevsky’s men will head to Bulgaria on the back of a four-game winning streak and the 5-2 win against Smolevichy-STI was the second successive time they’ve scored five goals after a 5-0 Cup win at Granit prior to the break.
Two of BATE Borisov’s key players – Stanislav Dragun and captain Igor Stasevich – have recently registered one positive and one negative test for coronavirus and the entire squad will have to undergo another round of testing. It has been confirmed that the pair won’t travel to Bulgaria regardless of their results.
Possible Starting Lineups of CSKA Sofia and BATE Borisov
CSKA Sofia: Gustavo Busatto – Bradley Mazikou, Valentin Antov, Jurgen Mattheij, Ivan Turitsov – Amos Youga, Younousse Sankhare – Henrique, Stefano Beltrame, Jules Keita – Ali Sowe. (4-2-3-1)
BATE Borisov: Denis Shcherbitski – Bojan Nastic, Egor Filipenko, Jakov Filipovic, Aleksandar Filipovic – Aleksandr Volodjko, Dmitri Baga – Nemanja Milic, Willum Thor Willumsson, Pavel Nekhajchik – Maksim Skavysh. (4-2-3-1)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
BATE Borisov can boast a successful record against Bulgarian sides as in addition to their victory over Levski Sofia in the 2008-09 Champions League qualifying, the Belarusian side also triumphed against Litex Lovech in the 2009-10 Europa League play-offs.
CSKA Sofia can also boast a very good unbeaten record in their past meetings with Belarusian teams, having won five of their six matches and scoring 13 goals in the process. However, all of these games were in the UEFA Cup qualifying rounds between 1998 and 2002, and the Reds have never faced BATE Borisov, who have completely changed the reputation of Belarusian football, and their previous meetings are against the likes of Belshina Bobruisk, Dinamo Minsk and Shakhtyor Soligorsk
Since the beginning of the season in Belarus in March, BATE Borisov (Money Line odds at +175 with XBet) have scored in 13 of their 14 away games and have scored two or more goals in the last 10 of them. They’ll face a stronger opposition this time, though, and will have to deal without two of their most experienced performers but the home side have already shown defensive vulnerability, including against a much weaker and completely inexperienced Sirens side in the first qualifying round, so BATE shouldn’t be written off even if they travel to Bulgaria without skipper Igor Stasevich and central midfielder Stanislav Dragun.
CSKA Sofia (Money Line odds at +141 with XBet) on their hand will try to benefit from the coronavirus mess in the Belarusian side, but let’s not forget that the Bulgarians have their own covid-related concerns and their most experienced and also quality defender Petar Zanev won’t be able to play.
Both teams have their own concerns and we expect to see goals so we’re backing Over 2.5 Goals.
Spooky Express Free Pick: Over 2.5 Goals -121 @ XBet for 6/10 Units