The Bulgarian A league is preparing for a dramatic showdown on Wednesday night as second-placed PFC Ludogorets Razgrad host leaders PFC CSKA Sofia, attempting to overhaul a two-point deficit and secure a maiden league title.
Such circumstances will evoke humbling memories for CSKA, who relinquished top spot in 1984 following a final-day slip. Their conquerors on that occasion were PFC Levski Sofia, whose crown was confirmed with a memorable 3-1 triumph. Twenty-eight years later and the resemblance is uncanny, as coach Stoycho Mladenov strives to avoid the tribulations he suffered as a player that day.
Famously dubbed the 'Executioner of Liverpool', Mladenov has re-established the Army Men as a formidable force in his third spell in charge, and is one point away from securing a third league title as CSKA coach. "CSKA always play to win and we will do that at Ludogorets. We will do everything we can to win the title," he said.
"Ludogorets have had a great season so far. The team is a real revelation and for one season they have achieved more than others had achieved for decades," added the 55-year-old. Indeed, he has every reason to praise the efforts of a team immersed in humble beginnings. Ludogorets have defied all expectations in their top-flight debut and are on course for an unprecedented double after winning the Bulgarian Cup.
Under the guidance of young coach Ivaylo Petev, Ludogorets have earned a reputation for playing an attacking, stylish brand of football. "This is going to be a great battle and I hope we will be winners," said Petev. "We all know the hard task we have. The aim will be to outwit CSKA. To be honest, I expected such a finish. This is good for Bulgarian football."
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