Manuel Veth –
Zorya vs CSKA Sofia – Thursday, August 15, 18:00BST/19:00CEST – Metallurh, Zaporizhia, Ukraine
Zorya vs CSKA Sofia remains a finely balanced tie heading into the second leg. The Bulgarians struck first with Brazilian Evandro making it 1-0 in the 13th minute after an assist by Kristiyan Malinov. Then just before halftime, Vladlen Yurchenko equalised for the Ukrainians from 12-yards out.
The result means that Zorya have the all-important away goal as the tie heads back to Ukraine. The game, however, will not take place in Luhansk, which remains cut off from the rest of the country due to the ongoing conflict between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the Donbass.
It adds to the tragedy that the club’s most successful period since the 1970s, when Zorya won the Soviet Vysshaya Liga, falls into an extended period of exile. Forced to play in Zaporizhia, which is located 400km west of Luhansk the club managed to twice qualify for the Europa League group stage under former head coach Yuri Vernydub.
Now under former Werder boss Viktor Skripnik the club wants to achieve their third ticket to Europe’s secondary competition. Standing in their way is a CSKA Sofia side that held Bulgarian giants Ludogorets to a 0-0 draw on the weekend.
Overall, however, results have been a mixed bag for CSKA Sofia under the 72-year-old Ljupko Petrović. Eight-points from the first five games means that CSKA are in seventh-place in the Bulgarian EFBET Liga.
That, in turn, means the Bulgarians will need to improve this season’s performances to get the result they need to advance against a well organised Ukrainian side.
Zorya vs CSKA Sofia – Players to look out for:
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.
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.
Zorya vs CSKA Sofia – Match Stats
- The 1-1 draw in the first leg was the first-ever encounter between the two sides.
- Heading into this tie, CSKA Sofia have faced Ukrainian competition on six different occasions and their record is W1 D1 L4.
- Before the first leg, Zorya have never played against a team from Bulgaria.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction:Zorya vs CSKA Sofia – 1-0
Zorya vs CSKA Sofia – Lineups
Shevchenko – Mykhailichenko, Cheberko, Vernydub, Tymchyk – Yurchenko, Ivanisenia, Kocherhin – Khomchenovskyi, Budkivskyi, Rusyn
Head Coach: Viktor Skripnik
Cerniauskas – Nuno Tomás, Albentosa, Zanev – Geferson, Malinov, Bikel, Turitsov – Evandro, Sowe, Rodrigues
Head Coach: Ljupko Petrović
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. Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently splits his time between Victoria, BC and Munich, Germany. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.