Teams: the Toothless Lions
CSKA-Sofia - Levski Sofia: The Old Firm is Back?
Well, I felt today's classical game of Bulgarian football deserves some attention. After a total domination of Ludogorets during the last 7 years, CSKA-Sofia and Levski Sofia are meeting as leaders in the table for the first time in some 10 years. My input (hopefully some Bulgarian member cheering for one of the two teams will wake up and make it spicier):
CSKA-Sofia: although it is an ersatz version of the old CSKA (Litex Lovech renamed, while the original club went bankrupt and is about to be dissolved), the brand is still recognized by the majority of its fans. The decision of the Bulgarian Football Union to allow Litex to be renamed and play in the league was driven by the idea to keep the rivalry CSKA -Levski alive and thus better sell TV rights, advertising etc.
Ownership: a local oligarch and infamous tax evasionist. However, he managed to create a good team while at Litex, and their academy produced most of the Bulgarian talent in the last 20 years. When opportunity popped up to take the CSKA brand over he grabbed it and moved Litex to Balgarska Armija Stadium.
Coaching Team: Nestor El Maestro. Brit by passport, Serb by nationality, he is obviously a good manager (made Trnava champions in Slovakia before coming to Bulgaria), and his team is producing better results than before his arrival with pretty much the same starting players as last year. His biggest asset is that he is intelligent, with the soul of a troll, and his interviews are always entertaining. His arrival definitely made the Bulgarian league more interesting to follow.
Players to watch: Despodov, Edwin Gyasi, Ali Sowe. Amazing forwards, who are a joy to watch any second they are on the field.
Ownership: Once known as the "people's" team, now the state mafia toy. Since the 90's ownership of the team is tied with businesses, which are closely related to, and promoted by men in power.
Coaching: Slavisa Stojanovic. The workaholic Slovene won the title with Red Star Belgrade some time ago, and that was sufficient to be hired when Delio "Uncle" Rossi was fired. The star players of the team immediately started confessing how the team has improved, and they are first in the table indeed, but their playing style is minimalist (not necessarily bad, but not attractive by any means).
Players to watch: Paulinho, Gabriel Obertan. Unfortunately, the manager does not have a mandate to risk results being undermined by the use of young prospects. On the other hand, big stars (for Bulgarian standards) Paulinho (back from injury) and Obertan are in shape, so creativity is expected from Levski today.
My verdict: Levski win by 2:1 (Despodov; Obertan, Stanislav Kostov)