Levski Sofia’s first ever home match in the Champions League has coincided with an injury crisis for coach Stanimir Stoilov.
Already without Valeri Domovchiyski and Emil Angelov due to muscle strains, centre-forward Georgi Ivanov is rated doubtful as Stoilov prepares to face Chelsea. Nonetheless, Stoilov remians optimistic about his team’s prospects.
“Georgi Ivanov will have a late fitness test and we expect him to make the 16, but he won’t be in the starting lineup,” he said.
“My dilemma is who should lead the attack – Hristo Yovov and Cedric Bardon can play there but it’s a pity our top three strikers are having problems.”
The teams last met five years ago in a UEFA Cup tie (won 5-0 by Chelsea), but Stoilov is expecting a very different encounter tonight.
“Both clubs have improved a lot but there is still an obvious gulf in terms of class,” he said. “Chelsea have a solid defence, excellent midfielders and strikers who are capable of scoring from nowhere.”
“Despite the injury problems, we will attack from the first whistle,” Stoilov added. “We’ll be looking for a goal and hopefully the fans’ euphoria will lift us.” If he is hoping to catch Chelsea off guard, however, he is set for disappointment.
Meanwhile, Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho is taking nothing for granted.
“I know it will not be easy for us,” he said. “We have done a scouting job on Levski. The players know they have to give their best. This is only the second matchday and both teams need the points.”
Chelsea’s have also boosted by the likely return of captain John Terry following a back injury.
Georgi Petkov; Zhivko Milanov, Elin Topuzakov, Igor Tomasic, Lucio Wagner; Daniel Borimirov, Richard Eromoigbe, Cédric Bardon; Dimitar Telkiyski, Hristo Yovov, Stanislav Angelov.
Petr Cech; Paulo Ferreira, John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Ashley Cole; Michael Essien, Claude Makelele, Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard; Andriy Shevchenko, Didier Drogba.