England take on Bulgaria this weekend at Wembley Stadium in the latest round of Euro 2020 qualifiers, with both teams hoping they can return to the famous venue in July next year as finalists. We caught up with Bulgarian student Plamen Pantev, who studies BA (Hons) Football Coaching & Management, to talk about the game and what he feels are his country’s chances ahead of next summer. He’ll be attending his first ever Bulgaria game also hoping that it doesn’t go the same way as their last visit to Wembley, which ended in a 4-0 defeat to Fabio Capello’s Three Lions…

What can England expect when they take on Bulgaria on Saturday?

My expectations are the game will be decided in the moments where attacking and defending transition take place. How quick players react when they win or lose the ball and make the right decisions afterwards.

I am expecting a real tactical/strategic battle on the pitch, with a high-press from England when out of possession and attacks down both flanks when in possession; England will be trying to make the pitch as big as possible. I believe Bulgaria is most likely to start with a 4-2-3-1 system. Our manager Krasimir Balakov has the vision for attacking football, however I expect the team to drop back in the opening minutes, make the pitch small and try to close the gaps in defence and take chances on counter attack, exploiting the space behind England’s fullbacks.

The main battle which I think will decide the game will take part in the middle third where England has great potential but also inexperience. I presume the Bulgarian team will start the game with five men in the middle to take advantage of that. Having more experienced, wily players will hopefully help us occupy more of the pitch.

Another aspect of the game that will alter the balance is set-pieces; Bulgaria have difficulties defending them! However, we do score a lot of goals that way as well, so I hope that will be the case on Saturday.

As Balakov said earlier in the week, he is expecting his players to be fearless on the pitch and keep possession of the ball, while enjoying the experience of playing at Wembley Stadium.

Who is Bulgarian’s key man?

If Bulgaria want to get something from this game, there should be no single key player expected to decide the game. It’s not just England who are known as the Three Lions, Bulgaria also go by the moniker and I’m sure there will be 11 lions on the pitch plus many lions in the stands at Wembley!

What are your chances of qualifying for Euro 2020?

That is a really difficult question to answer. After results we’ve achieved in previous games I like to believe we have the chance to qualify, but being realistic those chances are slim. Balakov has said that for us to qualify we have to win the rest of the games in our group which will be very difficult.

What can we expect from Bulgarian fans at Wembley? Do you think there will be a good turn out?

I have a feeling that Bulgarian fans will be louder and more passionate than the English fans knowing how passionate we are about football and sport in general! Unfortunately, we had an unpleasant experience in the last game and our fans were involved in racist and discriminatory chants. I would like to ask everyone coming to the game on Saturday to ‘Say No To Racism’. Let’s hope we make the day memorable with a lot of singing and positive vibes. At the end of the day football is a game to enjoy.

Score prediction?

As a student of UCFB Wembley I am ready to enjoy every second of the game and I wish good luck to both teams. However, of course I would like to see our first ever win over England at Wembley. I have a feeling it’s going to be 3-1 but we’ll see.

Enjoy the game!