CSKA Sofia returns to the European tournaments after four-year exile with a game against Lativan side Riga FC at Bulgarska Armia Stadium.More than 20 000 tickets have been sold (Bulgarska Armia Stadium has a seating capacity of 23 000 spectators), but let's see the situation in this team ahead of today's match.
Several changes have been made during the summer break, as Nestor El Maestro has been appointed as the team's new head coach, while the club signed with six new players in Dante Stipica (goalkeeper / from Hajduk Split), Steven Pereira (defender / from Maastricht), Boris Sekulic (defender / from Slovan Bratislava), Janio Bikel (midfielder / from Nijmegen) and Jorginho (midfielder / from Saint-Etienne).On the other hand, the departure of Fernando Karanga (forward / 29 goals) is definitely a big blow for CSKA Sofia, though it should be noted that the hosts showed good efficiency in attack in their pre-season friendlies, scoring 10 goals against Etar (2-0), V-Varen Nagasaki (3-0), Ufa (2-1), Shakhtar Donetsk (0-0) and Brondby on June 2 (3-3).
CSKA's defense, on the other hand, has been the most solid part of this team during the last campaign and I doubt that the guests are capable to cause serious problems, at least in this first match in Sofia.Nestor El Maestro has almost a full squad to choose from, with the exception of Kiril Despodov (forward / 11 goals last term), who is unavailable due to injury.
The only advantage for Riga FC can be found in the fact that the campaign in the Latvian Virsliga is in full swing, while the new season in the Balgarian First League has not started yet.On the other hand, it will be debut match for Viktor Skrypnyk's men in the European tournaments, which could be a problem against experienced team like CSKA Sofia.Riga FC is a team that relies predominantly on foreign players, but only a few of them in Mario Maslac (defender), Tomislav Saric (midfielder), Luiz Paulo Hilario (midfielder) and Gael Etock (forward) have experience in such games and in general, CSKA Sofia excels Riga FC in terms of individual qualities of the players.In the matter of fact, the guests show solid play in defense in their domestic league (9 goals in fourteen games), but I doubt that this may be some sort of measure for today's match.
I think that the hosts are capable to cover this handicap.