BULGARIA FACE FIGHT TO KEEP TOP SPOT
BY MASSIMO MARZOCCHI
Nothing has been decided in Group 3 yet, but two of the four teams fighting for the one automatic place at next summer`s World Cup finals and the play-off place, which could potentially provide a match against Scotland, meet tonight.
Leaders Bulgaria host second-placed Denmark in Sofia and the winners will be favourites to win the group, but the Czech Republic can also still finish top and qualify automatically. And Iceland can still make the play-off place and earn a tie against the runners-up from Scotland`s Group 6.
In one of the tightest of all the European qualifying groups, Bulgaria beat Malta 2-0 on Saturday to move from third to top on 17 points, one ahead of deposed leaders Denmark, who were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Northern Ireland.
`We have five or six players with slight injuries, but we have come (to Sofia) for a victory and we will chase it,` said Denmark coach Morten Olsen.
Olsen described the result against Northern Ireland as `a catastrophe`, and tonight will be without first-choice keeper Thomas Sorensen, who broke his nose in Saturday`s game. Reserve Peter Kjaer steps up.
Celtic`s Stilian Petrov will be handed a pivotal role in Bulgaria`s midfield alongside playmaker Krassimir Balakov, the VfB Stuttgart player who has recovered from a heel injury.
`We cannot qualify without a victory against Denmark,` stressed Balakov.
Bulgaria play their last qualifier away to the Czechs in October, when Denmark are at home to Iceland. The Czechs will be expected to beat Malta at home tonight, while Iceland must win in Northern Ireland to stay in contention.
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