MX23RW : Saturday, May 15 11:29:40| >> :600:13540004:13540004:
Dec 3, 2020 at 8pm UK at Stadionul Dr. Constantin Rădulescu
CFR ClujCFR Cluj
CSKA SofiaCSKA Sofia

Susic (33'), Chipciu (54')
Chipciu (85')

Vion (1'), Geferson (54')

Preview: CFR Cluj vs. CSKA Sofia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between CFR Cluj and CSKA Sofia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Though defeated twice without scoring in back-to-back Europa League Group A encounters with Roma, managerless CFR Cluj still have qualification in their own hands as they host already-eliminated CSKA Sofia.

The embattled Bulgarian side have yet to register a goal in the section and are stranded at the bottom of the group with only a solitary point to date.

Match preview

CFR Cluj players celebrate scoring against Young Boys in October 2020© Reuters

Beaten 5-0 by the irrepressible group leaders in Rome and then 2-0 in Romania, CFR will nevertheless guarantee further progress alongside the Serie A side if they win their final two matches.

The second of them will be a visit to Switzerland's Young Boys, who have seven points from their four games - three more than Cluj. CSKA, with just one point, can no longer finish in the top two and will seek the small consolation of a first goal and first win of the campaign.

These clubs met on the opening night, which was CSKA Sofia's first European meeting with a club from Romania and likewise CFR's first encounter against Bulgarian opposition. The visitors won the game 2-0, with second-half goals from Mario Rondon and Ciprian Deac bringing them just their second ever away win in the Europa League proper.

However, their home record is altogether more impressive. CFR were unbeaten in seven European home games until they lost to Roma last time out and they won all three in last season's group stage - against Lazio (2-1), Rennes (1-0) and Celtic (2-0), before drawing 1-1 with Young Boys this year.

An unexpected 1-0 defeat against struggling Iasi in the Cupa Romaniei at the weekend was far from the ideal preparation for Thursday's critical clash though, and it turned out to be the final game for their beleaguered manager.

In the league, the Transylvanian club are third, some six points behind leaders FCSB, having compiled less than half the goal tally of their capital rivals at an unimpressive average of just over a goal per game.

Dan Petrescu pictured in December 2013© Reuters

So, with the losses racking up, manager Dan Petrescu belatedly fulfilled his promise to quit - made after the first Roma defeat. As the former Chelsea star - who has also coached in Russia, Qatar and China - departed on Monday, the club's hierarchy will be looking for an immediate reaction from the players.

This week's visitors CSKA are currently seeking some stability after coming through their own period of crisis. Following a sixth league draw of the season against modest Arda Kardzhali in October, the army club sacked their previous coach Steman Belchev, who was only appointed in July.

Their prospects have improved since the subsequent appointment of Bosnian coach Bruno Akrapovic, as they currently sit fourth in the league standings with 21 points from 12 games. After returning four draws and a defeat from the previous five rounds, the capital club have since managed to seal back-to-back domestic wins.

On Sunday they defeated their bitter rivals, disputed 'splinter club' CSKA 1948, to sit third in the league table - within touching distance of perpetual leaders Ludogorets.

That win will have pleased former West Ham and Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew, who unexpectedly joined CSKA last month as their director of football. The Englishman left Dutch side ADO Den Haag after his contract was cancelled in April and took up his post with The Armymen having worked as a media pundit of late.

CSKA's victory at Basel in qualifying was the only one of their last six matches outside Bulgaria in which they have scored - their two Group A games on the road this term having resulted in a brave 0-0 draw at Roma and 3-0 defeat at Young Boys.

Somehow, Akrapovic and Pardew will have to produce a reverse in that trend if their new club is not to slip out of Europe without even a whimper. Meanwhile, with Petrescu now gone, Cluj know that nothing other than a bounce-back victory will do.

CFR Cluj Europa League form: WDLL
CFR Cluj form (all competitions): LLWLLL

CSKA Sofia Europa League form: LDLL
CSKA Sofia form (all competitions): WLWWLW

Team News

CFR Cluj's Billel Omrani celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates on August 13, 2019© Reuters

For the home side, vice-captain Ciprian Deac, defender Syam Ben Youssef and key midfielder Ovidiu Hoban all tested positive for COVID-19 in the build-up to the Roma game and are still absent.

Therefore Cluj will likely rely on French winger Michael Pereira to deputise for Deac, while Catalin Itu stands in for Hoban.

CSKA's on-loan Watford forwards Jerome Sinclair and Adalberto Penaranda should start in support of their central striker Ali Sowe, though Irishman Graham Carey could also start out wide.

Former Porto midfielder Tiago Rodrigues will again man the engine room, though it is uncertain if 4-2-3-1 will be employed by Akrapovic or a back five, as in the defeat to Young Boys.

CFR Cluj possible starting lineup:
Balgradean; Susic, Manea, Burca, Camora; Itu, Dokovic; Rondon, Paun, Pereira; Debeljuh

CSKA Sofia possible starting lineup:
Busatto; Mazikou, Mattheij, Antov, Vion; Sankhare, Rodrigues; Penaranda, Yomov, Sinclair; Sowe

SM words green background

We say: CFR Cluj 1-1 CSKA Sofia

Neither side has inspired confidence in their opening Group A encounters, with Roma and Young Boys being far more impressive propositions.

CSKA can finally register a first goal to take a consolation point away from managerless Cluj, leaving the Romanian side in serious danger of sliding out of contention.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win 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.Home/Away:data

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