Slovenian Champions Mura will take on their Bulgarian counterparts Ludogorets Razgrad in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round at the Fazanerija City Stadium.
Both sides are placed in the Champions Path and following Monday's draw, it has been confirmed that the winner of their tie will advance to face either Olympiakos (Greece) or Neftci Baku (Azerbaijan) in the third qualifying round.
Mura Betting Preview
NS Mura succeeded the old ND Mura 05 that experienced financial difficulties and was eventually dissolved after the 2012-13 campaign.
Mura is gradually progressing under Ante Simundza's leadership. First, the club finished fourth in 2018-19 and thus qualified for the Europa League, while they also won the 2020 Slovenian Cup the following year. Their greatest achievement, though, came only a couple of weeks ago when Mura won their first Slovenian Championship title after a crucial victory over Maribor, who were top of the table until the final round of the season.
Thus, Mura earned a Champions League qualifying spot and they will hope to beat the odds. Mura completed a comfortable 6-0 aggregate win (5-0, 1-0) against Shkendija, but we should bear in mind that the North Macedonian champions were down to 10 men minutes before the break, at 1-0, when defender Jan Krivak was sent off during Mura's 5-0 victory.
However, Mura will have to bounce back here as they suffered a disappointing 3-0 home defeat to Tabor Sezana on the opening day of the Slovenian Prva League season and Ante Simundza's side must be way more clinical against the Bulgarian side.
Ante Simundza changed most of his starters at the weekend and he'll most likely recall the majority, if not all, of them against Ludogorets.
Croatian striker Mihael Klepac, who scored a brace in the second leg against Shkendija, should lead the line for the Slovenians, while his fellow compatriot Luka Bobičanec, who was Mura's top goalscorer last season, should start in attacking midfield.
Ludogorets Betting Preview
The Eagles will be brimming with confidence as they have just won the Bulgarian Super Cup title and they did it in a convincing manner, absolutely outclassing domestic rivals CSKA Sofia in a 4-0 victory on Saturday night.
Having won an unprecedented record-breaking 10th consecutive Bulgarian top-flight title, Ludogorets Razgrad are overwhelming favorites to claim another one but they are now focused on their European journey.
Ludogorets Razgrad earned back-to-back 1-0 wins over Shakhtyor Soligorsk in the first qualifying round and even though their performance and results were far from glamorous, they still managed to outplay the Belarusian champions, who headed into the matchup halfway through the season in their domestic league, while it was Ludogorets' first competitive encounter in 2021-22.
Unlike Mura, Ludogorets' squad is composed mostly of foreign players but that has been the club's policy for the past decade and it works well, given the lack of quality homegrown players.
Valdas Dambrauskas decided to leave Claudiu Keseru out of the group for Slovenia, which proves how confident he is and that the Lithuanian manager has some excellent forwards considering that he could afford to call on the experienced Romanian goalscorer.
Several experienced figures have either retired or left the club this summer – goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov and legendary Romanian defender Cosmin Moti have both retired – while the contracts of experienced defender Dragos Grigore and long-serving captain Svetoslav Dyakov expired and were not renewed.
After a largely disappointing period with Cagliari in the Italian Serie A, Kiril Despodov worked to revive his career at Ludogorets Razgrad and the Bulgaria international registered four assists against his former club (CSKA Sofia).
Jordan Ikoko and Cicinho are in contention for the right-back spot, while the other three of Ludogorest' back four seem to be certain, with captain Anton Nedyalkov set to start at left-back, while Igor Plastun, who returned to Ludogorets after 3 seasons with Belgian Gent, and Olivier Verdon are paired at centre-back.
Alex Santana and Stéphane Badji are competing to start alongside summer arrival Claude Gonçalves in the middle of the park while domestic youngster Dominik Yankov will hope to get the nod over veteran Wanderson at the left-wing.
Possible Starting Lineups of Mura and Ludogorets
Mura: Matko Obradovic – Zan Karnicnik, Matic Marusko, Jan Gorenc – Ziga Kous, Tomi Horvat, Nino Kouter, Klemen Sturm – Luka Bobicanec – Kai Cipot, Mihael Klepac. (3-4-1-2)
Ludogorets Razgrad: Kristijan Kahlina – Jordan Ikoko, Olivier Verdon, Igor Plastun, Anton Nedyalkov – Claude Gonçalves, Alex Santana – Dominik Yankov, Cauly, Kiril Despodov – Pieros Sotiriou. (4-2-3-1)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
Mura are made up of predominantly domestic players (or players from the ex-Yugoslavia members) and despite the impressive outcome of their two-legged tie with Shkendija, Mura lack significant European experience.
Ludogorets Razgrad, on the other hand, are in the Champions League qualifiers for the 10th year in a row and we believe that their rejuvenated squad is superior and they should be able to take the lead, particularly if they repeat the same performance that stunned CSKA Sofia last weekend.