By Pawel Dimow
It is business as usual in Bulgaria where the country’s 'big two', PFC CSKA Sofia and PFC Levski Sofia, have already surged ahead in this season’s Premier League campaign.
With just five rounds gone, the Sofia teams, with a 100 per cent record to date, have already established a five-point cushion at the top of the table over reigning champions PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv, currently in third place.
The headlines have gone to Ferario Spasov's CSKA who have scored 20 goals in five matches and also gained a dramatic victory over AC Omonia in UEFA Cup qualifying. Midfield player Hristo Yanev is the man in form, scoring seven goals. The golden touch has also followed the 25-year-old to the national side where he scored a magnificent free-kick in Bulgaria's recent 3-1 FIFA World Cup qualifying win against Iceland.
Levski by contrast have managed ten goals in their five games, and defeated FK Modrica 8-0 on aggregate to join CSKA in the UEFA Cup first round. They have a new coach in Stanimir Stoilov, who replaced Georgi Vasilev, and young midfield players Dimitar Telkiyski and Asen Bukarev have caught the eye - earning themselves national-team call-ups.
Plovdiv began the season by beating PFC Litex Lovech 1-0 to win the Bulgarian Super Cup, but have not kept up with the Sofia sides in the league so far, not helped by a surprising defeat at newcomers PFC Beroe Stara Zagora. They also suffered an emphatic UEFA Champions League exit, losing 6-0 on aggregate to Club Brugge KV in the second qualifying round.
Bulgarian Cup holders Litex, like Plovdiv, have ten points but have shown mixed form. However, they did shine in the UEFA Cup second qualifying round, racking up a 9-1 aggregate win against NK Željeznicar. Two new signings - Brazilian forward Joãozinho, who claimed a hat-trick at home against the Bosnia-Herzegovnian side, and 17-year-old right-back Ivan Bandalovski - have performed well so far.
It has been a terrible time for financially troubled PFC Spartak Varna, who have lost all five matches. They have scored just once and conceded 18 goals, making it their worst start to a season. One place above Spartak, and with just one point on the board, are PFC Lokomotiv Sofia, now under veteran coach Stefan Grozdanov who has replaced Yassen Petrov since the start of the season.
There was another managerial change last month as Velislav Vutsov replaced Rumen Stoyanov at PFC Marek Dupnista. Marek have also recruited former Bulgarian international Bisser Ivanov, who left Cypriot side Anorthosis Famaguta FC by mutual consent.
Finally, a word on PFC Naftex Burgas who have made a disappointing start to the season after recruiting Italian coaches Claudio Masseli and Salvatore Bianchetti, and Francesco Scolio as technical director, during the close season. They scored two goals in their first five games and sit eleventh.
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