Match Preview: Bulgaria (a)

Nations League B

On Sunday evening the Huuhkajat resume their Nations League campaign at the Vasil Levski stadium in Sofia kick-off is 19:00 Finland time

Finland: The entire squad has survived a Covid-19 scare after French forward Wissam Ben Yedder tested positive, the whole Finland squad testing negative ahead of the tie. Jukka Raitala dropped out with injury and was replaced by Juha Pirinen, super sub Fredrik Jensen is out injured. Leo Väisänen has returned to Sweden after picking up a knock against France. Onni Valakari has been scheduled to link up with the under 21s, but his fine performance against the world champions keeps him in Kanerva’s immediate plans. In spite of Wednesday’s historic win, expect a drastically different starting eleven, as Rive’s tried and tested 4-4-2 returns along with Finland’s established starters. Kanerva has some interesting choices, Finland have faired very well without Robin Lod, his return may see Taylor or Niskanen on the bench, while up top Joel Pohjanpalo has struggled for form with the national side, Marcus Forss’ goal and performance against France might bump him up the pecking order, but he’s more likely involved from the bench. 

Bulgaria: Head coach Georgi Dermendzhiev has lost 5 players to Covid and a couple more to injury following Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Gibraltar. First choice ‘keeper Plamen Iliev (Ludogorets) was injured before the Gibraltar game, experienced back-up ‘keepers Nikolay Mihaylov (Levski Sofia) and Georgi Georgiev (Cherno) tested positive for Covid. Added to the Covid list are Ludogorets centre back Anton Nedyalkov and midfielders Martin Raynov and Yanis Karabelyov while injury takes out regular forwards Georgi Kostadinov and Kirin Despodov. An already depleted team easily handled Gibraltar last week, and although Finland won the reverse fixture in October, Lukas Hradecky didn’t exactly have a quiet night. Bulgaria tend to block the middle of the pitch and attack with pace down the flanks. They are light on goals in the squad Midtjylland’s Bozhidar Kraev is their top scorer with three international goals. Expect the hosts to try and keep it tight, kill the game and use set pieces and counter attacks to make inroads. 

Previous: P:9, W:1, D:1, L:7, GF:5, GA:19

Finland won their first ever game against Bulgaria back in October in what it otherwise a pretty dismal record.

Referee: Donatas Rumšas (Lithuania) – Europa League level whistler with just two international matches under his belt. 13 reds in his last 50 days he’s a tad card happy, and seems to have a tendency to “even things up”. 

Broaadcast: live on Nelonen and streaming on Ruutu. 

FFS-tradamus… Predictions:

Mark H: Tight, dirty, 0-1 Finland win.

Keke: A return to a more familiar line up is almost certain, Pukki & Jolle will be feeling the pressure after the young guns performance against France and will be looking for goals. If Finland can score in the first half I think we may see a convincing win. Bulgaria are sure at some point to Feel The Forss! 0-3

Rich: Can’t see more than two goals in this, Finland have a big incentive and recently have been more efficient. Two second half goals for Finland but it’ll be ugly.

Mark W: After the performance and result against France, I’m feeling more confident than my FFS teammates. The ‘first team’ will feel some positive pressure from that result, which should help keep performance levels high. A strong Finnish defence against a Bulgaria team with only one goal on four games – I’m going for an emphatic 3-0 win.

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