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Bursaspor goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov is relishing the prospect of being reunited with compatriot Dimitar Berbatov when the Turkish side visit Manchester United FC on Wednesday, the two former Bulgarian internationals having memorably crossed paths ten years ago.
Bottom of UEFA Champions League Group C and without a point, Bursaspor will look to Ivankov to keep the joint section leaders at bay and the 34-year-old is expecting a busy evening. "It will be a very hard game for us," he said. "Manchester United have so many great players.
Their whole team is dangerous, not only Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney. Berbatov is having a great season so far."
The two players last found themselves on opposite sides of the pitch almost ten years ago to the day, when Ivankov's PFC Levski Sofia secured a 1-1 draw away against Berbatov's PFC CSKA Sofia on 15 October 2000. The match they are most remembered for came in May that year, however, when Ivankov repeatedly denied the United man before Georgi Ivanov's late goal earned Levski a 1-0 success that proved a significant step towards the A League crown.
Only 19 at the time, Berbatov was already the most exciting prospect in the Bulgarian top flight but blamed himself for the outcome of that crucial encounter, claiming "we lost because of my misses". It was considered the forward's first big club contest and although he has since won the Premier League title with United, plus English League Cup honours with Sir Alex Ferguson's men and Tottenham Hotspur FC, he will surely be reminded of that day when he steps out on the pitch at Old Trafford.
Berbatov will not be alone in wanting to score, though, as his erstwhile Bulgarian international colleague enjoys a reputation as one of the most prolific goalkeepers in the global game. Ivankov has registered 31 league goals down the years from free-kicks and penalties and also found the net in both rounds of a UEFA Champions League qualifier against F91 Dudelange in July 2000. "
It will be a dream come true if I get to score in the group stage of the Champions League," he said.
Short of getting his name on the scoresheet, Ivankov would nonetheless settle for a positive result at one of European football's most evocative venues. "I hope we'll do a good job at Old Trafford and show our best," he explained. "Playing in the Champions League is like a dream come true for Bursaspor. We are debutants in the tournament and it will be very difficult for us, but we want to show some good football and, if luck is on our side, we may take something from this game."
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