PFC Litex Lovech top the table going into the winter break in Bulgaria with coach Angel Chervenkov telling uefa.com they have "the quality, strength in depth and experience" to win the title.
Following spells abroad with FBK Kaunas and Heart of Midlothian FC, the 45-year-old Chervenkov returned to Bulgaria to take over at Litex in August. His predecessor Stanimir Stoilov had decided to concentrate exclusively on his work with the national team following his side's elimination from the UEFA Europa League at the hands of FC BATE Borisov.
Strength and experience
The circumstances were not promising, but the results have been incredible, with Litex four points clear at the top of the table and on course for a third title, to follow the ones they won in 1997/98 and 1998/99. "We have two months to get ready for the second half of the season," Chervenkov told uefa.com. "Our rivals will do their best to defeat us, but I think we have the quality, strength in depth and experience to succeed."
In terms of quality, Chervenkov can field experienced defender Radostin Kishishev and fellow former Bulgaria players Hristo Yanev and Ivailo Petkov. "It is easy, when you have such players at the club," he said. "But all the players have given their best. They quickly understood what was required from them and are now beginning to show their true potential."
As a defender, Chervenkov won the title – alongside Hristo Stoichkov, Luboslav Penev and Emil Kostadinov – at CSKA in 1987, and did so again with PFC Etar Veliko Turnovo in 1991. "It is always tough for a team outside Sofia to win the title, but we had players like Krasimir Balakov, Iliyan Kiryakov and Boncho Genchev," he recalled.
"It would be really great to win it again," he added, citing the influence of former coaches Dimitar Penev and Georgi Vasilev on his development. "After ending my playing career, it was an easy decision to become a coach. I try to follow modern trends; I read and watch games all the time. If you want to be at the top, you have to work hard. There is no other way."
Fast and furious
Working at Hearts saw him test his theories out against some top Scottish managers like Walter Smith and Gordon Strachan. "The football in Scotland is fast and direct," Chervenkov said. "I enjoyed my stay at Hearts and I want see the same standard at Litex. We need to bring fans back to the stadiums in Bulgaria, but for that we need to play attractive, positive football and to be successful in Europe."
European success, of course, would be the next challenge on Chervenkov's menu if his side can take the title. "It would be a great achievement to win the league and test ourselves in the UEFA Champions League," he said. "We are out of the Bulgarian Cup, but that might a blessing in disguise. Now we have 15 more league games and we must be completely focused and prepared for all of them."
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