MX23RW : Sunday, October 24 11:48:41| >> :600:1127659:1127659:
Sep 5, 2021 at 5pm UK
Chochev (82')
Iliev (85')
Borislavov Mihaylov (83')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Jankauskas (80'), Cernych (89'), Simkus (90+1')

Preview: Bulgaria vs. Lithuania - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Bulgaria and Lithuania, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Bulgaria look to build momentum following their surprise midweek result in World Cup Qualifying Group C, as they welcome Lithuania to Sofia on Sunday.

Holding European champions Italy to a draw keeps Yasen Petrov's side at least theoretically in the race for qualification, while their visitors were beaten again on Thursday and have yet to get off the mark.

Match preview

Bulgaria's Atanas Iliev in action on March 25, 2021© Reuters

Having only picked up their first point of the campaign in their third Qatar 2022 qualifying match last March, Bulgaria approached probably their toughest task of the whole process - an encounter with Italy in Florence - with some trepidation.

However, a neat left-footed finish from Atanas Iliev cancelled out a sensational opening goal from the Azzurri's Federico Chiesa, and the Lions held on for a hard-earned 1-1 draw in the Tuscan capital.

Still, with only faint hopes of reaching the playoffs for next year's global gathering through a runners-up finish - they trail Switzerland by four points, but the Swiss still have two games in hand - Bulgaria are more likely to battle it out for third with the other Group C also-rans.

Their only previous point came from a goalless draw in Northern Ireland, and they have now won just two of their past 29 matches - the most recent being a friendly victory over Gibraltar late last year.

As they have failed to qualify for the finals since 1998 - four years after famously finishing fourth in the USA - Bulgaria's drought is therefore set to continue until 2026 at least, but they can still take pride in improvement after a difficult few years in the wilderness.

While their hosts have been unable to make it to a World Cup so far this century, Lithuania have never qualified for the finals of any major tournament.

Even before the current campaign got under way, their record of just one win during qualification for the last World Cup in neighbouring Russia provided a clear indication of their improbable task in progressing - particularly from a competitive Group C.

The team coached by Valdas Ivanauskas realistically only have the incentive of battling Bulgaria to avoid the wooden spoon in this five team group, but if they are to get the better of their Balkan counterparts in the final standings, then avoiding defeat for the first time in the process is a must.

That may be easier said than done, though, as their last victory came in the shape of a 2-1 win over Kazakhstan in November last year and the Rinktine's most recent setback was an eighth consecutive loss - this time at the hands of Northern Ireland, as they were beaten 4-1 on home soil having conceded two second-half penalties.

Following on from their 4-0 friendly defeat to Spain and a 3-1 reverse against Latvia in two post-season friendlies, an aggregate of 11 goals leaked in three outings does not bode well for the trip to Vasil Levski Stadium.

Bulgaria World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • L
  • L
  • D
  • D

Bulgaria form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • D

Lithuania World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • L
  • L
  • L

Lithuania form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L

Team News

Bulgaria coach Yasen Petrov pictured on March 25, 2021© Reuters

Yasen Petrov oversaw a brave backs-to-the-wall effort in Italy earlier this week, so may make changes to freshen up his Bulgaria XI for the second of three games in a week.

Ascoli striker Atanas Iliev was on the scoresheet in his adopted homeland, and he is expected to join Kiril Despodov in attack again - though it remains to be seen whether Petrov will opt to retain a 4-3-3 formation or switch back to two men up front.

Having included uncapped CSKA Sofia forward Kaloyan Krastev as his only new call-up this month, the midweek debutant provides another option in the forward line, but is more likely to feature as a second-half substitute.

Lithuania, meanwhile, will still be without new manager Valdas Ivanauskas on Sunday, after the 55-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. Ivanauskas - appointed just last month - was due to lead his nation for the first time in Vilnius on Thursday, but is now self-isolating.

The former Hearts boss had already lost his captain, Lithuania's most-capped player, Saulius Mikoliunas to injury, so Rolandas Baravykas should deputise at right-back again, having scored against Northern Ireland.

In the absence of Mikoliunas, goalkeeper Ernestas Setkus is the senior citizen of the team, aged 36, while young striker Edgaras Dubickas is expected to lead the line up front.

Bulgaria possible starting lineup:
Mihaylov; A. Hristov, Antov, P. Hristov, Nedyalkov; Malinov, Kostadinov, Chochev; Iliev, Despodov, Delev

Lithuania possible starting lineup:
Setkus; Baravykas, Satkus, Utkus, Vaitkunas; Megelaitis, Simkus, Verbickas, Novikovas; Cernych; Dubickas

SM words green background

We say: Bulgaria 2-0 Lithuania

Bulgaria's goal threat has been lacking of late, but they should be able to build upon their relative success in midweek and put two past a struggling Lithuania side.

The visitors are not only on a long losing streak, but have also lost their newly-appointed manager for this international triple-header, so are set to remain pointless in Group C.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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