Tuesday, August 24, 2010
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Saints heading for Bulgaria and CSKA

THERE was no dream tie with Aston Villa for The New Saints - instead, they will head to Bulgaria to face CSKA Sofia in the fourth qualifying play-off round of the Europa League.

CSKA, which stands for Central Sports Club of the Army, normally play at the Bulgarian Army Stadium, but TNS will face them in the 44,000 capacity National Stadium in Sofia, where the hosts expect a crowd of around 10,000 for the first leg on Thursday August 19.
They reached this stage of the competition by beating Cliftonville 2-1 at Windsor Park last night for a 5-1 aggregate win, so the Saints will be hoping to gain some information for their counterparts in Ulster.
CSKA, who have won the Bulgarian domestic title 31 times, were banned from the 2008/9 Champions League after failing to gain a Uefa license due to unpaid bills.
The person widely blamed for the crisis was president Alexander Tomov, who resigned shortly after and was arrested and tried for embezzling millions of levs from CSKA.
The problems with the license exposed the club's weak financial situation, prompting many of the key players to leave, including coach Stoycho Mladenov.
With almost all senior players gone, Dimitar Penev was left to with the task of rebuilding the side with members of the CSKA youth squad and they club was able to compete in the Bulgarian league that season.
Despite all the difficulties, Penev's young squad claimed the Bulgarian Super Cup in August 2008 and, following the sale of the club to a Bulgarian waste management company, CSKA finished the championship as runners-up.
CSKA earned a place in the Europa League group stages last season after defeating Dynamo Moscow in the qualifying round and drew AS Roma, FC Basel and Fulham in the group.
Despite a 1-1 draw with the Londoners, Sofia failed to gain any further points and finished bottom of their group.
Photo: The National Stadium in Sofia will host the first leg on August 19.

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