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Sunday, October 15, 2023

Preview: Montenegro vs. Bulgaria

Sports Mole previews Sunday’s Euro Champ Qualifying clash between Montenegro and Bulgaria, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Still in the hunt for a place at Euro 2024, Montenegro host Group G rivals Bulgaria in Sunday’s qualifying clash at Podgorica City Stadium.

While the visitors are trailing behind on two points and sit bottom of the five-team section, the Brave Falcons could move into the top two with a win this weekend.

Match preview

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Beaten only by neighbours Serbia in their first four European Championship qualifiers, Montenegro remain contenders for a ticket to Germany next summer, when UEFA’s showpiece international tournament will be staged.

A stalemate with Hungary and victory over Bulgaria saw the little nation enter this month’s international window on four points from three games, and an eventful conclusion to Thursday’s fixture in Lithuania then upped their tally – though only by one point.

Trailing by a goal heading into the final 15 minutes, Montenegro equalised through Lecce striker Nikola Krstovic – who has already made an impact in Serie A since signing for the Puglian club this summer – and then Stefan Savic struck what seemed to be an 89th-minute winner.

However, conceding again in stoppage time left the side managed by Miodrag Radulovic cursing their luck, as victory would have put them alongside second-placed Serbia on points.

As a result of that late lapse, the Brave Falcons have now won just once in nine matches – their 1-0 defeat of Bulgaria last spring – so Radulovic is acutely aware that only maximum points will do this weekend.

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After missing out on promotion from League C of the UEFA Nations League by some distance – having previously sunk without trace in the Qatar 2022 qualifiers – Bulgaria’s miserable run has continued this year.

In addition to their home loss to Montenegro in March, the Lions have been beaten 3-0 by Group G leaders Hungary, with a pair of 1-1 draws in June providing their only points of the process so far.

The latter of those results also left a bitter taste, as Mladen Krstajic‘s men led until the 96th minute but still squandered victory against their head coach’s home nation.

Bulgaria reconvened this week, for a friendly against Iran, but they could not find the net in Plovdiv and succumbed to a frustrating 1-0 home defeat.

Three days on, they will have a chance to keep the flame flickering on their challenge for Euro 2024 qualification, but even beating Montenegro would leave them with a mountain to climb in their final three games.

Montenegro Euro Champ Qualifying form:

Montenegro form (all competitions):

Bulgaria Euro Champ Qualifying form:

Bulgaria form (all competitions):

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Team News

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After Montenegro coach Miodrag Radulovic paired rising star Nikola Krstovic with well-travelled Stefan Mugosa up front in midweek, the same strike partnership could start for the hosts on Sunday.

Captain Stefan Jovetic, who recently signed for Olympiacos, would therefore take a place on the bench, but any change in formation could see the 33-year-old promoted to the starting XI.

Bulgaria, meanwhile, have switched to a 3-4-3 setup of late, with skipper Kiril Despodov – their leading active goalscorer – featuring in an attacking triumvirate.

Goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov was handed his senior debut in Thursday’s loss to Iran, but either Ivan Dyulgerov or Daniel Naumov could take the gloves in Podgorica.

Both Spezia defender Petko Hristov and Sparta Prague’s Martin Minchev miss out due to injury.

Montenegro possible starting lineup:
Mijatovic; Marusic, Savic, Tomasevic, Radunovic; Jovovic, Jankovic, Scekic, Savicevic; Mugosa, Krstovic

Bulgaria possible starting lineup:
Dyulgerov; Petkov, Krastev, Antov; Popov, Chochev, Gruev, Yordanov; Despodov, Borukov, Delev

We say: Montenegro 1-0 Bulgaria

A lack of bite means that Bulgaria do not pose a major threat to Montenegro’s qualification dreams – they have averaged only a goal every two games in their last six matches. As a result, the hosts should secure maximum points and keep pressure on the nations above them in Group G.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here ↗.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com ↗ are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here ↗ to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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BFIA Admin
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