Ludogorets will look to overturn a one-goal deficit when they host Astana in the second leg of the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League. Dutch giants Ajax await either side in the final stage before the competition’s group phase. Ludogorets have reached every one of the last six years.
Preview (Ludogorets vs Astana)
In the match last Thursday in the capital of Kazakhstan, Ludogorets took an early lead. They allowed it to slip shortly before halftime. Within the subsequent 15 minutes, they found themselves down 2-1. The home team responded to a goal by Noah Sonko Sundberg in the 34th minute at Astana Arena. Goals from Zarko Tomasevic and Aleksandr Marochkin helped carry a significant lead with them to Bulgaria.
Ivaylo Petev’s team lost to Slovenian champions Olimpija in the second round despite defeating Ballkani in the first round. This was because they gave up a crucial goal in stoppage time in Ljubljana. Ludogorets has recently been a staple in the Europa League’s autumn phase, however, they frequently exited before the knockout stage. However, in order to keep their ambitions alive this year, they must now come from behind against a team with a similar history.
Grigori Babayan’s team now finds itself 90 minutes away from meeting Ajax at the end of August. An unlikely victory in that tie would then send them into the group stage. Dinamo Zagreb’s 6-0 aggregate victory over them ended their pursuit of a Champions League place. Having been spared a weekend match, Astana should now arrive in Razgrad with fresh legs and a genuine chance of securing a ticket to Amsterdam. Astana is currently six points behind Kazakhstan Premier League leaders Ordabasy.
Ludogorets may alter the lineup from the one that suffered a 2-1 loss the previous week. Wingers Caio Vidal and Spas Delev are at the top of the list for bench promotion after both were second-half substitutes in Astana. Son, a Spanish fullback who is now on suspension, is still unavailable to Ivalyo Petev, while Kwadwo Duah, a Swiss striker who was acquired from Nurnberg earlier this summer and contributed two assists on his debut, is sidelined with an ankle injury that will keep him out until September.
Since Marcel Heister will fill in for Noah Sonko Sundberg at left-back while Son is out due to an impending domestic competition ban, the hosts’ defense should be led by the former Ostersunds defender. As a result, Aleksandr Marochkin, Zarko Tomasevic, and Abzal Beysebekov, the first-leg goal scorers, would serve as the away team’s captains from the center of a five-man defensive line; Dembo Darboe, a Gambia international, would start up front.
Astana hasn’t been able to score at the same rate this year as they did when they won the Kazakh championship. Despite scoring twice on their own turf, Dinamo Zagreb twice shut out the visitors on Thursday. If a talented Ludogorets team can close the back door, they will surely make up the deficit.
Ludogorets 2 – 0 Astana
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