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Levski fuelled by domestic defeat

Published: Wednesday 13 August 2008, 2.26CET
PFC Levski Sofia coach Velislav Vutsov is hoping his team can put the disappointing start to their domestic season behind them when they host FC BATE Borisov.
by Stoyan Georgiev & Denis Orlov
Levski fuelled by domestic defeat
Georgi Petkov will return from injury for Levski against BATE ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics

LevskiBATE

Goals scored1
 
9
Attempts on target1
 
9
Attempts off target1
 
0
Corners0
 
0
Offsides0
 
0
Fouls committed0
1
Yellow cards6
 
19
Red cards0
2
 
Published: Wednesday 13 August 2008, 2.26CET

Levski fuelled by domestic defeat

PFC Levski Sofia coach Velislav Vutsov is hoping his team can put the disappointing start to their domestic season behind them when they host FC BATE Borisov.

PFC Levski Sofia coach Velislav Vutsov is hoping his team can put the disappointing start to their domestic campaign behind them when they welcome FC BATE Borisov looking to earn a second UEFA Champions League group stage campaign in three years.

Petkov returns
In 2006, Levski defeated AC Chievo Verona to earn Bulgaria's only appearance in the competition proper. But going into the visit of the Belarussian side the favourites for the Bulgarian title suffered a surprise 1-0 loss at PFC Vihren Sandanski on Saturday. Despite that result Vutsov, appointed this summer, is looking forward to his bow in European competition and the return of experienced goalkeeper Georgi Petkov from a groin injury will aid his team.

'Golden chance'
"I cannot say we underestimated Vihren," Vutsov said. "But now we will have a completely new approach and the loss against Vihren could actually be positive for us. This will be a golden chance for us. Our task is simple – we must score as many goals as possible and aim not to concede goals. I am sure, though, the tie will not be decided after the first leg."

BATE qualities
Levski could have ended up with far more experienced opposition than BATE, who have never reached the group stage, but their second qualifying round defeat of RSC Anderlecht makes Vutsov cautious. "BATE are a very well organised and balanced side. They play a very fast game, they run a lot and press the opposition. They also know how to keep the ball and they showed their best qualities against Anderlecht. They scored four goals against the Belgian side, so they know how to score goals and we must be ready for them."

Sosnovski suspended
His opposite number Viktor Goncharenko is without suspended defender Sergei Sosnovski – "a big loss" – and captain Aleksandr Ermakovich is a doubt in midfield but the BATE coach hopes to use striker Gennadi Bliznyuk, despite a facial injury which will require the use of a mask. As for the fixture itself, Goncharenko mused: "The chances are 50-50. We are ready for the games. I watched Levski in their friendly against Werder Bremen last week and the Bulgarian side displayed a very high level of performance. Every side has strong and weak points and I may say we know everything about Levski."

Challenge
BATE overcame Valur Reykjavík in the first qualifying round before surprising Anderlecht, and hope to go one better than last season when FC Steaua Bucureşti pipped them to the group stage. Their recent ten-game winning streak in the Belarussian league was ended with Saturday's 3-3 draw at FC Dnepr Mogilev, but BATE remain unbeaten in 17 competitive games and are three points clear of FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk. Therefore Goncharenko is quietly confident that they can take a useful scoreline back to Borisov in a fortnight. "The game in Sofia will be extremely difficult," he said. "However, we have faced even bigger teams in the past, so we remain calm."

Last updated: 13/08/08 19.14CET

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