Thursday, 13 May 2021
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Russian expects battle from "angry" Bulgaria

Russian coach Daniele Bagnoli (left) and team manager Ruslan Olikhver during the press conference in Khabarovsk

Russia welcomes back veterans Sergey Tetyukhin and Aleksey Kuleshov for their first domestic matches of the 2009 World League this Saturday and Sunday against Bulgaria in Khabarovsk.

Alexey Verbov and Alexey Cheremisin, who didn't travel with the team to Cuba for the last weekends matches, are also back in the team, while Denis Kalinin left the squad to play in the Universiade in Serbia.

Russia will be looking to its freshly rested players to help stop Bulgaria, who have lost three of their first four matches and will be desperate for victory knowing their chances of qualifying for Final Round in Belgrade will be over if they don't.

The Balkan team has made only one change to its roster, bringing in Russian spiker Todor Alexiev for Partin Penev.

The two European teams were expected to be the favorites in Pool C, but after a sputtering start by Bulgaria and a resurgent Cuba flexing its muscles, Russia finds itself tied in points (9) with the South Americans at the top of the table after splitting a pair of five-set thrillers in Havana.

In the opening weekend, the Russians won back-to-back matches against Japan. Bulgaria sits in the third place with a 1-3 record. The Lions opened the World League by loosing two matches in Cuba, and then surprisingly split its matches with Japan at home.

Bulgaria coach Silvano Prandi believes his team is ready to make a "breakthrough" in Russia. "It happened many times with the teams I have coached-- that we start bad in the beginning. This is mostly psychological," he said. "And then we have a big match against a good opponent and we get into the right mood. I hope this will happen now with Russia coming."

Russia coach Daniele Bagnoli is taking nothing for granted. "I expect a very angry Bulgaria," he said. "I've heard about the polemic in the Bulgarian media after their losses and I think they must be eager to respond to it with a good performance. That's why Bulgaria is very dangerous now."

Italians Prandi and Bagnoli, both successful coaches in their clubs careers, will meet for the fist time as coaches of national teams.

"For me playing against a team coached by an Italian means that the opponent is prepared very well tactically," said Bagnoli, whose side has a very optimistic 14-5 record against Bulgaria.

Khabarovsk will be hosting its first elite-level men's volleyball matches, which will be played at the 7,100-capacity Platinum Arena.


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