Two sides with legendary status in Europe meet in the Europa League second qualifiers round on Thursday as Croatian side Hajduk Split play host to Bulgaria's Levski Sofia.
Stadion Hrvatski vitezovi, Dugopolje, Croatia (Hrvatska) 13 Jul 2017 6:30 pm (GMT)
Key Stat: Hajduk Split have progressed to the playoff round each of the last three seasons, and that has allowed them to improve their coefficient as a result.
Expert Verdict: The improvement of the coefficient for Hajduk Split has meant that they have been able to skip the first round, and that is a big indicator of success in most competitions. Sides coming in later simply have more quality, and there is little doubting that this is the case here. The home side from Croatia have continually showed that they can get through these rounds, and they should be able to do that yet again as they face the Bulgarian side Levski, who haven't done much of late in Europe.
Joan Carrillo has managed to keep most of his team from last season, and that should serve him well here in this match.
Striker Marco Futacs has been on the books of the likes of Leicester and Werder Bremen in the past, and he brings that wealth of experience with him to Hajduk Split. The 27 year old Hungarian scored 18 goals in 26 matches last season in the league, and all of that travel has paid off for him and his side.
Hajduk Split has two wins, two draws, and a loss in their last five matches. They lost 2-0 away to Rijeka and then drew 1-1 at home against Lokomotiva Zagreb. Next were wins over Inter Zapresic (6-0, home) and then Slaven Koprivnica (1-2, away). They then played a friendly against Rudar in which they drew 2-2 away.
Defenders:Ismajli, Lopez, Bosanic, Memolla
Midfielders:Gentsoglou, Basic, Kozulj, Barry
Nikolay Mitov will be without center forward Amadou Soukouna due to a suspension. He also will be missing four players due to the under 19 championship: goalkeeper Dimitar Sheytanov, defensive midfielder Ivaylo Naydenov, center midfielder Georgi Yanev, and striker Stanislav Ivanov.
Striker Junior Mapuku got his side off to a great start in the Europa League when he scored two goals in the first leg of the first round a couple weeks ago. That gave his side the springboard to go to the next round, and the Congo man will be hoping to once again provide a spark against the Croatians.
Levski Sofia have three draws, a win, and a loss in their last five matches. They lost 3-0 away to CSKA Sofia before getting a 2-2 home draw against Cherno More. Next was a 1-1 home draw that they ended up winning on penalties against Vereya in. In the first round of this competition, they won the first leg against Sutjeska 3-1 before completing the job with a 0-0 result away last week.
Defenders:Cvetkovic, Pirgov, Jablonsky, Goranov
Midfielders:Angelov, Panayotov, Prochazka
Forwards:Adeniji, Narh, Junior Mapuku
These Central European sides will be meeting one another for the first time on Thursday.
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Hajduk Split are at ½ to win, a draw is at 14/5, and a Levski Sofia win is at 5/1.
Hajduk Split are big favorites here not only in the match, but also in the tie overall. On top of being at home, they are hugely favored due to the fact that they have made the playoff rounds each of the last three seasons. On the other hand, Levski Sofia haven't made it to the third qualifying round since 2011.
Levski, despite all of their history, did only just overcome their first round opponents as well, and typically sides that come in later do better against teams that have been playing. So it's a big gap that has to be closed here in this one.
Hajduk Split will be the side in control throughout this tie, and they will be in a good spot come the second leg as a result.