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Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Prediction: Bulgaria vs Hungary

Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 27/50

Bookmaker: ZetBet ↗

The upcoming match between Bulgaria and Hungary within the Euro 2024 qualifications features a clash between the bottom-ranked and top-ranked teams in Group G.

Originally planned to occur at Stadion Hristo Botev in Plovdiv on Thursday, a late change in the venue has shifted the fixture to the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia. The decision, prompted by ongoing construction work, has sparked criticism from the Hungarian federation, deeming it “unsportsmanlike.”

Bulgaria

Bulgaria are heading into their final two fixtures of 2023 under new management following the departure of former coach Mladen Krstajic. Krstajic’s dismissal was prompted by a string of unsatisfactory results, including a nine-game winless streak dating back to November of last year.

His last match in charge resulted in a 2-0 friendly loss to Albania, which followed a disappointing home defeat to Lithuania, ranked 134th in the world, in the Euro 2024 qualifying, leaving Bulgaria at the bottom of Group G without a win in six matches.

The Bulgarian Football Union recently announced the appointment of Ilian Iliev as the new national team manager. Iliev will also continue his duties as the head coach of first division side Cherno More Varna, currently in contention for the league title alongside CSKA Sofia.

Despite lacking prior experience in managing at the international level, Iliev is determined to implement the “right tactics” to reverse Bulgaria’s fortunes. He aims to support Bulgarian players in showcasing their true potential following a challenging period in international competitions over the past year.

While automatic qualification for Euro 2024 is no longer possible for Bulgaria, who trail second-place Serbia by 11 points with two games left, they aspire to finish the year positively and aim to secure favorable results in their remaining matches. They obviously hope to move up from the bottom of Group G and surpass fourth-placed Lithuania, who have played an extra game.

Team News

Midfielder Andrian Kraev faces a one-match suspension following his two yellow cards in the defeat against Lithuania last month. Consequently, there’s a choice between Leeds United’s Ilia Gruev or Los Angeles FC’s Filip Krastev to potentially start in the center-midfield alongside Ivaylo Chochev.

Among the 27 players in Ilian Iliev’s squad, a total of 21 goals have been scored, with captain Kiril Despodov contributing 10 of those goals. Despodov is anticipated to initiate the match on the right side of a front three, alongside Preslav Borukov and Spas Delev.

Iliev is likely to maintain a 3-4-3 formation for the upcoming match, fielding Kristian Dimitrov, Valentin Antov, and Simeon Petrov in the back three. Additionally, Viktor Popov and Ivan Turitsov are expected to operate as wing-backs.

Hungary

Hungary are on the verge of clinching their third consecutive European Championships appearance, needing only one more point from their final two matches to secure a top-two finish in Group G and secure their spot in next year’s tournament in Germany.

Under the guidance of Marco Rossi, the team has managed an impressive 10-game unbeaten streak across all competitions. They’ve gathered 14 points out of a possible 18, propelling themselves to the top of Group G, holding a one-point advantage over second-placed Serbia with an extra game in hand.

Their recent victories include a crucial 2-1 win over Serbia and a remarkable comeback from a two-goal deficit to secure a 2-2 draw against Lithuania. Dominik Szoboszlai’s 67th-minute penalty and Barnabas Varga’s 82nd-minute equalizer in the Lithuania match sustained their unbeaten streak in Group G.

Ranked 30th globally by FIFA, the Magyars head into Thursday’s match with confidence, having already secured a convincing 3-0 home victory against Bulgaria in their previous encounter, courtesy of goals from Szoboszlai, Balint Vecsei, and Martin Adam.

While Hungary have lost just one of their last ten away matches in all competitions, they’ve encountered some difficulties, drawing three of their last four away fixtures against teams ranked lower than them in the FIFA standings.

Team News

Willi Orban, Attila Fiola, Laszlo Kleinheisler, Roland Sallai, Barnabas Varga, and Balint Vecsei are all set to miss this month’s international break due to injuries.

On the other hand, Zsolt Kalmar, who missed the last qualifier due to suspension, is available for selection. He will be competing with Adam Nagy, Daniel Gazdag, and Callum Styles for a spot in the middle of the park.

With Sallai and Varga unavailable, there could be opportunities for Andras Nemeth, who hasn’t scored in 10 substitute appearances for Hamburger SV this season, and Ujpest winger Kevin Csoboth, to start in the attack alongside Liverpool star Szoboszlai.

Conclusion

Iliev aims to kick off his tenure with a positive result in his debut home game for Bulgaria. However, securing success against an in-form Hungary team, eager to solidify their Euro 2024 qualification with a win in Sofia, presents a significant challenge for the Lions.

In the previous encounter earlier this year, Hungary comfortably triumphed against Bulgaria. Given Hungary’s current form, they are likely to face minimal difficulties in securing another victory over this particular opponent.

Verdict: Away win

Best odds: 27/50

Bookmaker: ZetBet ↗

Michael Maren
Michael Maren
Former marine biologist who likes to spend as much time in the tropics as possible, due to a horrible time I once had in Alaska. Brrrr.

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