Ludogorets Razgrad VS FC Copenhagen Prediction
One of the 2016-17 UEFA Europa League Round of 32 fixtures meets champions of Bulgaria and Denmark, respectively Ludogorets Razgrad and FC Copenhagen. First leg will be held at the “National Stadium Vasil Levski” in Bulgarian capital Sofia where team from Razgrad plays its home games in UEFA competitions. Ludogorets Razgrad and FC Copenhagen are coming from the UEFA Champions League stream which makes their clash even more intriguing, meaning both clubs finished third in their groups.
Ludogorets vs FC Copenhagen – H2H Balance: This will be the first ever match between these two teams, as well as first of Ludogorets against Danish opposition. FC Copenhagen, meanwhile, holds a positive record in previous matches against Bulgarian clubs which includes three wins and a defeat.
Europa League: Ludogorets Razgrad vs FC Copenhagen 16.02.2017
Ludogorets and FC Copenhagen can be entirely dedicated to their European performance as they both retain a comfortable lead ahead runner-ups in their leagues. Actually that was clear as soon as the UEFA Europa League 1/16 finals draw took place on 12 December 2016. Perhaps most European football followers know that there are around two months of winter break in some leagues as we find Bulgarian First League and the Danish Superliga in that number.
“The Eagles” from Razgrad already begun with competitive football in 2017 and that happened on Sunday afternoon, when Ludogorets played against Montana. That was a postponed league game from end of 2016 and has been staged by the same stadium which will host upcoming Europa League match against Copenhagen. Despite a stunning 4-0 victory, head coach of Ludogorets expressed his concerns about the pitch. Georgi Dermendzhiev complained and he believes that if the grass is not in a similar condition like it was in the autumn, this may carry only negatives to his squad. Nevertheless, Ludogorets did not met any difficulties to cope with Montana’s resistance, but they are the club on last position in Bulgarian league. The upcoming encounter against Copenhagen is with completely different matter and if Danish champions have physical advantage on their side, then players of Ludogorets are known with their technique.
After victory on Sunday, Ludogorets have seven points above second placed Levski Sofia and they can fully focus on the Europa League. Some people in club from Razgrad were extremely ambitious and they have stated Ludogorets will try winning the UEFA Europa League trophy. Something which may sound ridiculous, but it’s a purpose after all.
FC Copenhagen feels fine, likewise Ludogorets – sitting on top of the table. Moreover, “Lions” hold even greater advantage over a second-placed Brondby. Danish champions have not lost a single game yet when it comes to the 2016-17 Danish Superliga season, where FC Copenhagen boasts having 16 wins and 5 draws in 21 rounds. A record placing them with 9 points above local rivals Brondby and marks a really strong domestic accomplishment by reigning champions in first part of the season.
FCK have an upcoming match exactly against Brondby on Sunday afternoon, since the top-tier of Danish football returns into action this weekend. This can be considered either a positive or negative by Ståle Solbakken. As a positive because FC Copenhagen can concentrate mostly towards two legs against Ludogorets, as in the meantime FCK will remain on Superliga’s peak in any case. As a negative due to lack of competitive football for a long period.
Last official match of the Danish title-holders was on 11 December 2016 when FCK achieved a narrow win in Arhus. It was another successful result for FC Copenhagen and to be even more detailed, “Lions” suffered only one defeat in the 2016-17 season. However, a defeat which was crucial for their Champions League ambitions. Losing by Leicester City (1-0) in England, three draws (two of them vs Porto and another vs Leicester City) and two wins against Club Brugge were not sufficient to secure one of the top two Group G positions. Thus the Champions League journey of FC Copenhagen has been ended in the group phase and Danish champions will seek consolation in the UEFA Europa League.
Match Preview: Team News, Squads and Missing Players
Ludogorets was one of the 32 Champions League group members for the second time and “Eagles” from Razgrad extended their European march after finishing third in Group A. Only two years ago Ludogorets Razgrad reached the UEFA Champions League group stage for the very first time and team finished on the last place, with 4 points in 6 games. This time Ludogorets won only 3 points after all CL rounds but they were enough to earn them third position in a group alongside Arsenal, PSG and FC Basel. Two draws against Swiss champions (1-1 in Basel and 0-0 in Sofia) were key for eventual head-to-head superiority of Ludogorets, but Bulgarian champions were even more convincing with a reputable 2-2 draw vs PSG. That was their third point in Group A of the 2016-17 Champions League and Ludogorets surely regrets for a missed winning opportunity in Paris, where Angel di Maria equalized in stoppage time.
Match at the “Parc des Princes” was in a moment when Arsenal and PSG were competing for the first place, while Ludogorets and Basel were fighting for the third position and for a UEFA Europa League spot. Well, Ludogorets took it and Bulgarians were close to end their winless European form – seven games without winning. Indeed, last victory of Ludogorets in a UEFA competition was vs Viktoria Plzen (2-0) in mid-August, which was the turning point of their Champions League promotion. It has been followed by a 2-2 draw in the Czech Republic and another portion of 3-3 (draws, losses) in the groups. But all these draws were equal to victories and Ludogorets is one of the 32 teams who will renew the Europa League battle on Thursday.
After an easy walk against Montana, Georgi Dermendzhiev will most likely rely to the same starting formation which was used in some of the winter friendlies. This hints for some rotations in the formation Ludogorets played with in big part of the autumn games, where Natanael Pimienta was first choice on the left-back. He wasn’t in group of Ludogorets for the domestic weekend fixture and his position was taken by universal-experienced full-back Yordan Minev, while another Brazilian in Cicinho’s face starts on the right side. Another rotation which won’t happen for the first time suggests for a drop of Romanian striker Claudiu Keșerü and for more pace in attack. Jonathan Cafu will possibly start on top of Georgi Dermendzhiev’s favourite 4-2-3-1 formation and this opens space on the right wing – Virgil Misidjan and Jody Lukoki can start there. Latter was a starter in last weekend’s match and we believe that’s a sign about his better form right now.
Brazilian trio featuring names of play maker Marcelinho (who has acquired Bulgarian citizenship and represents the national team), winger Wanderson and Jonathan Cafu is the biggest threat for FCK’s defensive line here. They have all found themselves on the score sheet against Montana – Cafu and Wanderson both scored once, while Marcelinho netted two goals. Meanwhile, Jonathan Cafu was one of the players who were often mentioned in the winter transfer window, but Ludogorets rejected offers sent by some clubs from major European leagues – like Serie A and the English Premier League.
Cafu’s presence is a key fact in our opinion and we expect even bigger interest for his signature in the upcoming summer. Potential Europa League breakthrough and more impressive efforts would be a factor about that and we believe players of Ludogorets have already proved their quality compared to other Bulgarian clubs.
And if Ludogorets as a team kept its main strength, Copenhagen sold one of their key players. Central midfielder Thomas Delaney made a move into German Bundesliga by joining Werder Bremen, so basically his position leaves some questions to coach Ståle Solbakken. The 48-year-old Norwegian can choose Delaney’s replacement among Uros Matic and Jan Gregus, while experienced William Kvist looks a sure starter. Otherwise Copenhagen is expected to play with same formation, style and players as in first part of the season. This means a 4-4-2 formation with two attackers on top – normally Andreas Cornelius and Federico Santander, but Andrija Pavlovic is also an option.
And if FCK’s defensive line looks easily predictable, positions on the wings arouse wider competition with four players eager to start. Rasmus Falk Jensen, Youssef Toutouh, Kasper Kusk and Benjamin Verbic are all in contention for both starting positions and according to squad names used in a friendly match against Rosenborg on Saturday, Ståle Solbakken has, or he had, plans to select Toutouh and Jensen. Anyway, after a toothless effort and a 0-2 defeat by Norwegian champions, Norwegian coach of FC Copenhagen may reconsider his decision.
Danish champions were not particularly effective in their winter friendlies which shouldn’t be a serious testimonial, but it may spread some worries mostly for the fans. Of course, we cannot compare friendlies and official games so FCK can show something else in Sofia, although we should keep in mind that will be their first official match in 2017.
Betting Prediction and Possible Lineups
We fancy odds on the home side as we believe Ludogorets Razgrad should take advantage from the first leg, since FC Copenhagen are very solid at home. Danish champions will need some time to regain their good shape from first part of the season and this may cost them much, if “Lions” don’t do it as soon as possible. Results of their latest friendlies are far from being impressive and fact they play first official game on the road can have influence over FCK’s football.
On other hand Ludogorets are not really at home, but playing in Sofia is not something unfamiliar to them. Ludogorets is keen to improve its record from season 2013-14, when “Eagles” from Razgrad have reached the UEFA Europa League 1/8 finals and actually their home game vs Copenhagen is first Europa League fixture for Ludogorets after a 1-0 loss in Valencia, from March 2014. In that period Ludogorets gained serious reputation backed by Champions League appearances and domestic titles, but most important from all is that club from Razgrad sticks to its basis.
Our prediction recommends betting on Ludogorets Razgrad with Asian Handicap 0 on their side. That’s pretty much the same as “Draw No Bet” on Ludogorets, but the Asian Handicap betting usually carries greater value.
Venue: “Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski”, Sofia.
Referee: Ivan Bebek from Croatia.
Possible Lineups of Ludogorets and FC Copenhagen
PFC Ludogorets Razgrad: Vladislav Stoyanov – Yordan Minev, Jose Luis Palomino, Cosmin Moti, Cicinho – Svetoslav Dyakov, Anicet Abel – Wanderson, Marcelinho, Jody Lukoki – Jonathan Cafu. (4-2-3-1)
FC København: Robin Olsen – Peter Ankersen, Mathias “Zanka” Jørgensen, Erik Johansson, Ludwig Augustinsson – Rasmus Falk Jensen, William Kvist, Uros Matic, Youssef Toutouh – Andreas Cornelius, Federico Santander. (4-4-2)