MX23RW : Saturday, January 2 20:17:29| >> :600:2079619:2079619:
Dec 10, 2020 at 5.55pm UK at Stadion Bâlgarska Armija
CSKA SofiaCSKA Sofia
Rodrigues (5'), Sowe (34', 55')
Antov (90')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Milanese (22')
Tripi (83')

Preview: CSKA Sofia vs. Roma - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between CSKA Sofia and Roma, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Goalless CSKA Sofia will be eager to avoid becoming the first club to complete a Europa League group stage campaign without scoring as they welcome Group A winners Roma to the Bulgarian capital on Thursday.

Paulo Fonseca's visitors travel in the luxury of knowing that their progress is assured, so the Serie A side may feature a number of up-and-coming starlets in an experimental starting XI.

Match preview

Roma forward Pedro celebrates with Tommaso Milanese after scoring against CFR Cluj on November 5, 2020© Reuters

CSKA claimed a 0-0 draw last time out at CFR Cluj but are still certain to finish last, while Roma - who sealed their qualification after just four games - clinched first place by coming from behind to beat Young Boys 3-1 at Stadio Olimpico.

Goals from on-loan Borja Mayoral, Riccardo Calafiori – his first in Europe – and substitute Edin Dzeko's 42nd strike in UEFA club competition sealed a return to winning ways in the aftermath of Roma's shocking 4-0 collapse at Napoli just days before.

The clubs' first meeting, in the reverse fixture in Rome, surprisingly ended in a goalless draw - the only points dropped so far by the Giallorossi - but Roma have since secured their fourth qualification in as many Europa League group campaigns.

Coach Fonseca has developed a more youthful shadow side in European encounters this term, with Calafiori, Gonzalo Villar, Carles Perez and Tommaso Milanese being involved throughout. He will, therefore, take the opportunity to rest some senior legs with a recent defensive injury crisis yet to be entirely resolved and a challenging Serie A advent calendar of fixtures ahead.

On Sunday, La Lupa took on Sassuolo at a rainy Olimpico and escaped with a goalless draw after having Pedro sent off before the break for his second bookable offence. The former Barcelona star is just one game shy of his 100th in UEFA club competition - he has scored 24 goals in his 99 appearances so far - while Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan is set to make his 50th Europa League appearance if selected.

As Roma have won their three most recent away fixtures in this competition - including this season at Young Boys and in Cluj - Fonseca's men will still be favourites for the win almost regardless of their starting XI on Thursday.

Alan Pardew pictured in March 2018© Reuters

CSKA Sofia are one of six group stage debutants in this season's competition, but are the only one without a win after the first five matches.

The Reds have enjoyed a significant uplift in domestic form since appointing Bruno Akrapovic as their new head coach last month - and former Reading boss Alan Pardew as technical director - but are still the only one of 48 group stage participants yet to score even a solitary goal.

In fact, no club has ever gone through a group without scoring in the growing history of the Europa League - so if only to save further embarrassment, CSKA will want to at least match the eight teams who only managed to register a single strike in six attempts.

Although the Armymen have lost both Group A home games – 2-0 against CFR Cluj and 1-0 against Swiss champions Young Boys – they have been beaten in just three of their 11 most recent European home matches, seven of them ending in victory.

That record at Stadion Balgarska Armia will at least provide some solace, as Akrapovic and Pardew prepare for the visit of Fonseca's rampant Romans.

CSKA Sofia Europa League form: LDLLD
CSKA Sofia form (all competitions): WWLWDW

Roma Europa League form: WDWWW
Roma form (all competitions): WWWLWD

Team News

Roma defender Chris Smalling pictured warming up on November 5, 2020© Reuters

Roma reportedly have Chris Smalling available after a lingering knee injury finally cleared. The former Manchester United defender resumed training on Saturday and may be handed a start in Sofia.

Fellow defenders Gianluca Mancini and Davide Santon have recently been absent and may not be risked. Marash Kumbulla and Federico Fazio returned to action last week and will contend for a place in the back three.

Former Aston Villa midfielder and first-choice penalty taker Jordan Veretout has been suffering with a thigh injury so Amadou Diawara and young Gonzalo Villar are more likely to start in the engine room, with in-form Borja Mayoral replacing Edin Dzeko up front in Paulo Fonseca's rotated XI.

CSKA's on-loan Watford forwards Jerome Sinclair and Adalberto Penaranda could start in support of their central striker Ali Sowe, though Irishman Graham Carey could also feature on the left flank.

Akrapovic has reverted to a three-man defence of late - preferring a variation on 3-4-1-2 - and is likely to do so again against superior opponents.

CSKA Sofia possible starting lineup:
Busatto; Zanev, Mattheij, Antov; Vion, Sankhare, Youga, Sinclair; Pendaranda; Yomov, Sowe

Roma possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Fazio, Smalling, Jesus; Peres, Milanese, Villar, Calafiori; Pellegrini, Perez; Mayoral

SM words green background

We say: CSKA Sofia 1-2 Roma

Only Roma's packed schedule - and easing off in light of their already-secured qualification - could save CSKA from going through the humiliation of a goalless group stage.

Paulo Fonseca's second string are a talented bunch however, so expect both the Giallorossi to finish with a flourish and the home side to finally break their barren run.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Away Win:data


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