MX23RW : Sunday, May 22 17:09:50| >> :600:14176673:14176673:
[monks data]
Aug 18, 2021 at 8pm UK at Eleda Stadion (Malmö)
2 - 0
Birmancevic (26'), Inge Berget (61')
Lewicki (11'), Brorsson (49')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Tekpetey (36')

Preview: Malmo vs. Ludogorets Razgrad - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Champions League clash between Malmo and Ludogorets Razgrad, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Seeking a first Champions League group stage appearance since the 2015-16 season, Malmo welcome Ludogorets Razgrad to the Eleda Stadion for the first leg of their playoff tie.

The Swedish champions overcame Rangers 4-2 on aggregate in the third round to get this far, while the visitors edged past Greek giants Olympiacos from 12 yards.

Match preview

Despite going a goal down to Alfredo Morelos's opener and being reduced to 10 men on the stroke of half time due to two quickfire bookings for the ironically-named Bonke Innocent, Malmo's fighting spirit came to the fore against Rangers as they turned the tie on its head with all the odds stacked against them.

Having prevailed 2-1 in the home leg, Antonio Colak made Ibrox his playground with two strikes inside five minutes just before the hour mark, and despite boasting a man advantage for the entire second half, Rangers could not make it count as they crashed out of the Champions League to the superior Swedes.

Jon Dahl Tomasson's side had previously scraped past Riga FC and HJK Helsinki to set up a tie with the Scottish champions, and while all of their European ties so far have been tightly-fought affairs, they have managed to come out on the correct end of the scoreline through sheer determination and grit.

Malmo's Allsvenskan title defence has suffered a couple of setbacks in recent weeks, though, as a 0-0 draw with Halmstad on August 7 preceded a 3-2 defeat to IFK Goteborg in the weekend just gone - results which have dented the confidence and left them three points adrift of leaders Djurgarden after 15 games.

Ludogorets Razgrad's Kiril Despodov pictured in December 2020© Reuters

In contrast, Ludogorets have only been getting the competitive juices flowing in continental action since the start of the month, and the Bulgarian champions clearly benefited from the extra rest to produce one of the shocks of the third round against Olympiacos.

The two sides could not be separated over two legs and 210 minutes of football, with the tie ending 3-3 on aggregate, but Olympiacos duo Mathieu Valbuena and Ahmed Hassan both failed to convert their penalty kicks as Ludogorets progressed thanks to a 4-1 shootout win on their own turf.

With no top-flight encounter to contend with in between their European fixtures, Valdas Dambrauskas's side have had ample time to prepare themselves for a daunting trip to Malmo, and the Bulgarian giants are unbeaten in nine competitive games across all competitions ahead of the first leg.

Not since the 2016-17 season have Ludogorets advanced to the group stage of Europe's elite competition, with last season's continental run ending in the group stages of the Europa League, but Dambrauskas's side certainly have the wind in their sails before the first whistle blows on Wednesday.

Malmo Champions League form:
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Malmo form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • L

Ludogorets Razgrad Champions League form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W

Ludogorets Razgrad form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W

Team News

Malmo midfielder Innocent is suspended for this encounter following his sending off in the second leg with Rangers, while centre-back Anel Ahmedhodzic will also miss out due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

In Ahmedhodzic's absence, Eric Larsson could fill in at centre-back with Niklas Moisander continuing on the left-hand side, with Tomasson's only recognised left-back in Jonas Knudsen nursing a knee injury.

Erdal Rakip is the most likely candidate to deputise for Innocent alongside captain Anders Christiansen, with Colak and Jo Berget resuming their partnership in the final third.

As for Ludogorets, attacker Kiril Despodov picked up his third booking of the tournament last time out and will sit out Wednesday's first leg, potentially leading Dambrauskas to field Wanderson on the left-hand side.

Spanish striker Higinio Marin is still building up his fitness and has not been included in the squad for the first leg, but the visitors should largely stick with the same side that got the job done in dramatic fashion against Olympiacos.

Malmo possible starting lineup:
Dahlin; Bejimo, Larsson, Nielsen, Moisander; Birmancevic, Christiansen, Rakip, Rieks; Berget, Colak

Ludogorets Razgrad possible starting lineup:
Kahlina; Verdon, Plastun, Sa; Ikoko, Goncalves, Badji, Nedyalkov; Cauly, Sotiriou, Wanderson

SM words green background

We say: Malmo 0-1 Ludogorets Razgrad

While the loss of Despodov through suspension will undoubtedly harm Ludogorets on the attacking front, the Bulgarian side have already proved their European pedigree, and the confidence in the visiting camp will be sky-high after victory over Olympiacos.

The Bulgarian outfit have been granted rests from domestic action while they bid to do their country proud in Europe, but the same cannot be said for a fatigued Malmo, who we expect to fall just short in a closely-fought first leg.

Top 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:curl

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