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

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's International Friendlies clash between Slovakia and Bulgaria, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Slovakia return to action on Tuesday night when they travel to Austria to face off against Bulgaria in an international friendly.

Stefan Tarkovic's side are gearing up for their imminent return to the European Championship, whereas Bulgaria's bid to qualify for the tournament ended in failure.

Match preview

 Slovakia manager Stefan Tarkovic on March 30, 2021© Reuters

Back-to-back European Championship finals appearances for the first time as an independent nation could represent a new chapter in Slovakian football, as Tarkovic somehow attempts to navigate his side through a daunting Group E with Spain, Sweden and Poland next month.

A third-placed finish in qualification forced Slovakia to take the long road to the Euros via the playoffs, and the Republic of Ireland fell victim to the Sokoli's prowess from the penalty spot before their neighbours Northern Ireland succumbed to an extra-time Michal Duris winner in the playoff final as jubilant scenes followed for Slovakia.

A spot in the finals tournament awaits for Slovakia as they endeavour to build on their last-16 finish in the 2016 edition, and while their Nations League campaign was a forgettable affair, the Sokoli have made an unbeaten start to their World Cup Qualifying campaign under the tutelage of new manager Tarkovic.

Over the course of one week in March, Slovakia took one point from encounters with Cyprus and Malta before securing a 2-1 win over Russia in their most recent fixture, but they remain outside of the top two by one point at this early stage.

Slovakia enter their friendly with Bulgaria having lost just one of their last six games in all competitions, but they must also lock horns with Austria in preparation for the European Championship, so the importance of a morale-boosting win against Bulgaria cannot be understated.

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

Despite also advancing to the playoffs courtesy of their successful 2018-19 Nations League run, Bulgaria were quickly seen off by Hungary 3-1 in the semi-finals of Path A, and there will be no third shot at the Euros for the Lions after their group-stage finishes in 1996 and 2004.

A dismal 2020-21 Nations League campaign also saw Bulgaria relegated to League C without a single win from their six matches in League B, and Yasen Petrov has failed to inspire an immediate turnaround since taking the reins in January.

The Lions already had their work cut out in a World Cup Qualifying group with Italy and Switzerland, and they suffered defeats to both sides before managing to take a point from a goalless stalemate with Northern Ireland two months ago, and wins have been extremely hard to come by in recent times.

Indeed, 71st-ranked Bulgaria have only prevailed in two of their last 25 games in all competitions - a 3-0 friendly win over Gibraltar and a 1-0 success over the Czech Republic in Euros qualification - and they have failed to score in any of their last five games away from home.

Tuesday's game represents the first time that Slovakia and Bulgaria have locked horns since a 2006 friendly, which was won 3-1 by the Sokoli, and Bulgaria's most recent win in this fixture came during the 2000 Copa Ciudad de Valparaíso - a friendly tournament held in Chile.

Slovakia International Friendlies form:
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D

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

Bulgaria International Friendlies form:
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • W

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

Team News

Slovakia's Milan Skriniar celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on March 27, 2021© Reuters

Former Slovakia manager Pavel Hapal failed to convince Martin Skrtel to come out of international retirement for their Euros playoff and he will not be involved in the summer's tournament, but the likes of Marek Hamsik, Juraj Kucka and Tomas Hubocan - all aged 33 or over - provide invaluable experience.

Peter Pekarik will become only the fourth player to win 100 caps for the Slovakia national team if he is selected for Tuesday's friendly, but Tarkovic will not announce his final 26-man squad for the Euros until after this game.

With 90 minutes left to stake their claims for spots in the Euros squad, the likes of Lukas Haraslin and David Strelec will be desperate for the chance to impress against Bulgaria.

The Lions' captain Georgi Kostadinov is a notable absentee from the squad after picking up a muscular injury earlier this month, while several players involved in March's World Cup Qualifying matches have also been overlooked.

Experienced professionals such as Plamen Iliev, Petar Zanev and Strahil Popov are nowhere to be seen either, while playmaker Todor Nedelev is recovering from knee surgery.

Anton Nedyalkov, Georgi Yomov, Kristian Dimitrov and Spas Delev are all reported to be missing out as well, forcing Petrov's hand in a number of areas.

Slovakia possible starting lineup:
Dubravka; Pekarik, Skriniar, Vavro, Hubocan; Lobotka, Kucka; Haraslin, Hamsik, Mak; Strelec

Bulgaria possible starting lineup:
Naumov; A. Hristov, Antov, P. Hristov; Karagaren, Chochev, Vutov, Malinov, Tsvetanov; Kraev, Despodov

SM words green background

We say: Slovakia 2-0 Bulgaria

Bulgaria's profligacy on the road makes for grim reading for their supporters, who will be watching a decimated squad try to go toe-to-toe with a Slovakia team still revelling in the success of their Euros qualification.

Plenty of players in the Sokoli's ranks will be out to impress as they hope to force their way into Tarkovic's final squad for the European Championship, so we can only envisage a comfortable success for Slovakia here.

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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Marek Hamsik during a Slovakia press conference on March 23, 2019
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