Filip Krastev is one of the most important footballers in Levski’s squad. The midfielder gave a special interview to Gong.bg days before the derby with CSKA. The national player shared his expectations for the clash, why the “blues” failed against Lokomotiv Sofia, where they are better than the “reds”, why he stayed at “Gerena” and what is his opinion about the upcoming camp with the “lions”.
– How do you feel a few days after the match with Lokomotiv Sofia? Were you able to recover physically?
– I feel good. We managed to recover physically and are already training for the next match with CSKA. The feeling is quite unpleasant before the derby to make an unexpected loss that should have been a win. Now we are working to correct our mistakes and win on Sunday.
– What do you attribute the loss to Lokomotiv?
– We were a little distracted. We made mistakes that we don’t make any other time. Our stability in defense was not at the required level, and we also did not play with that consistency that we play with at other times during the whole period of the match. There were times when, through lack of attention and sufficient effort, we allowed Lokomotiv to easily reach our door and cause trouble. In attack, we did not manage to play our positions in the best way and made a lot of mistakes.
– Was Stanimir Stoilov sharper in the dressing room after this unconvincing match for Levski?
– He wasn’t that sharp, he scolded us of course. It was unacceptable to play this way. We have learned from this game and in the next one we will look completely different.
– You have a match coming up, in which, if you win, you will forget the few unpleasant moments from the beginning of the season. Purely psychologically, maybe it is very important to be able to beat CSKA?
– The match on Sunday is very important for the ranking table itself, but also purely psychologically for our rhythm and our motivation for the next matches. I think subconsciously we have a bit of a problem with motivation after the relegation from Europe. It’s all down to the mistakes we make and the way we go into games. We need to get back the motivation to win every single game like last season and the start of this season. The match with CSKA is the perfect chance to come out and show that we are the Levski team that everyone in Bulgaria fears and a team that can win every single game.
– Since being in Levski, he has played three matches against CSKA. You have no loss. Did you manage to feel the thrill of playing in the derby wearing Levski’s jersey?
– Matches with CSKA are definitely the most special for our team. It has a huge history. This is the biggest derby in Bulgaria. In it, you always play to the maximum, even when you are not at 100% physically. On Sunday, it will again be a highly charged match and our team will give everything to win.
– Do you go back to May 15, the 57th minute, when he passed to Iliyan Stefanov for that goal that literally “exploded” “blue” Bulgaria? What feeling comes over you?
– The memory is still fresh. I remember almost every stage of the match and more memorable situation. The feeling of the Bulgarian Cup final was the best I’ve ever felt. The adrenaline throughout the match was unique. I hope we remember the match on Sunday with good emotions and triumph.
– Could this match against CSKA and a possible victory be a springboard for something more this season, namely the championship title?
– Of course it can be. That’s exactly why the timing of this match is so important. It comes at a time when teams are starting to separate in the league. It is very important for us to win the game to close the gap with the top teams in the standings. The first goal for our team is to achieve consistency and fight for the title at the end of the season.
– The cliché says that there is no favorite in such a match, but does this victory in the final for the Bulgarian Cup give you any advantage?
– Maybe there is a psychological advantage after we won such an important game as the Cup final. I don’t think there is a favorite. I am confident in our qualities and I know what our team can do on the pitch. I think we are the more valuable team and we should win the game.
– Where is Levski better than CSKA?
– I think we can play at a higher pace than CSKA, we can press better than them. We can also control the ball better and play better than CSKA. However, in highly charged derbies, these things need to be shown on the pitch, not just noted in words as strengths. On Sunday we have to show all the qualities we have as a team and reinforce the good game.
– Two unpleasant injuries occurred in your team. Could it bring you together even more and play for Bilal Barry and Noah Sonko Sundberg if the defender can’t make the match?
– Of course we will play for them. We will do everything we can to win for Noah and Barry. They are core footballers who suffered nasty injuries. Now the pressure is on our shoulders to show how real a team we are and how united we are to win the game for ourselves, for the fans and for them.
– In the summer, a media saga broke out about whether you will stay in Levski or not. What was the main thing that made you want to stay at Gerena, as it is known that there were other offers?
– The most important factor that influenced my decision is my personal happiness and my motivation to play for this team. I felt very happy last season when I came from abroad. I continue to feel this way. I think this place is very good for me and I keep improving every day. I have a lot of support from the coaching staff and my teammates. The fact that here I regained the enjoyment of the game that I had lost some time ago was the most important thing.
– Since the beginning of the year, you have played in front of full stands at Gerena in almost every game. Which match left the strongest impression on you?
– It is easiest for me to mark the final for the Cup, as well as the matches in Europe with PAOK and Hamrun. For me, my favorite match with the Levski jersey is the rematch with Ludogorets for the Cup. The atmosphere of this match was unique and I will never forget it.
– The role of Stanimir Stoilov – what did he give you, what did you learn from him?
– He was the biggest factor in me coming to the team in the first place. He is very demanding – not only of me, but of everyone. I have a lot of respect for his understanding of football. I also respect his opinion, so I try to do what he tells me. When there is a remark or advice, I try to implement it. In most cases, the things he tells me are very useful to me afterwards on the field and help me a lot. I really like working with him.
– Now almost every team attack goes through you. Do you feel that your role in the team is becoming more significant and the responsibility is greater?
– Maybe with the time I accumulated in the team, the responsibility became greater. My functions in the team were changing and things started to depend a little more on me and my game. This is the best thing that could have happened to me because I have the privilege of being a main player at a very big club. I strive to improve every day. Of course, I make mistakes and sometimes I don’t play the ball in the best way, but I strive to improve my game – both individually and collectively. Thus, it will also be more useful for the team during the matches.
– Stanimir Stoilov brought you a little further back in the midfield. Do you like this role more or do you prefer to be behind the striker as before?
– My favorite position is behind the striker, because for me it is the best position in football. There is the greatest pleasure. Maybe I got more positives out of playing a little further back. So I became a more complex player and started to improve other traits in my game. Already my thinking itself is a little more changed. Abroad, my position slowly began to change. I can play in all positions in the center, even more defensively I feel more comfortable. Now my very thinking about football is different and I am not so focused on the attack phase, but rather I try to be useful in all phases.
– In the midfield you partner with two footballers, winners of the “Footballer of the Year” award – Ivelin Popov and Georgi Milanov. In recent years, they are the two Bulgarians who have made the most serious careers abroad. What did you learn from them?
– They are one of the most successful Bulgarian fubol players in the last decade. They played football at a higher level than what is in Bulgaria. They have played quite a few big games in their careers. I appreciate their experience and their thinking about football. I hope their experience and the class they have will help us in the games and win more points.
– Since the beginning of the season, you have scored a lot, but you have also assisted a lot. What gives you more pleasure – the last pass for a goal or the goal itself?
– Always the feeling of scoring is the best. I think I can score more goals and be more clinical in my finishing. When I pass to a teammate in a good position or we make a good attack and I give the last pass, it’s also a very satisfying feeling and I pass to a teammate and he scores.
– I know your favorite athlete is Russell Westbrook. You watch a lot of NBA and American sports. Why Westbrook and not LeBron James or Kevin Durant?
– For me, he is a different type of person. I am familiar with his life because I am a very big fan of his. He has been my favorite since 2012, 2013. Over the years he has become like a hero to me that I respect a lot. For me, he is a very important figure, even though we don’t know each other. I really like him and will always support him wherever he plays.
– Is there something from basketball or American football that you saw and transferred to your game on the football field?
– You could say. Not only the training that athletes in these sports do, but also some more unusual movements that help in football as well. Sometimes I try to improvise and practice these things so that I can then apply them in a match. But yes, there are some things from American sports that have helped me in football.
– You are from the young wave of football players. Which do you prefer – reading a book or playing on the Playstation?
– I’ve rarely played video games in the last year or two. So it is with books. I am not very interested in reading books, although I know that it is a very useful and nice hobby. I have enjoyed playing video games since I was little. I don’t have much time right now, but I would choose to play video games.
– Got on the list of the national coach Mladen Krastaic for the upcoming matches with Gibraltar and North Macedonia. You are quite young footballers. You are actually one of the most experienced of the summons. What to expect from this young national team. Do you have any impressions of the new selector, have you spoken with him?
– I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to the new selector. My expectation is that we will start building a team that will achieve much better results in the future and be among the good football sides again. I know almost all of the younger guys. It all depends on us, we have to put in a lot of work to get back to where we are. I am optimistic about the national team camp.
– Did those bad results last time affect you in any way?
– The draw with Gibraltar was not pleasant at all. The feeling after the 2:5 loss to Georgia was disgusting. I couldn’t realize how hard these matches were and how bad the results were. The only conclusion I have drawn is that each of us must work harder to get out of this situation. Everyone has to start putting more effort individually and as a team we have to not just go out and play but give our all because the best feeling is playing for the national team. We have to change our mindset and play in a completely different way. That will come when we put in much more effort than we have so far. I strive to do just that.
– Do you have any rituals before an important game like this one on Sunday?
– I will keep the rituals to myself because they are quite strange and my teammates regularly joke with me about these things. Basically, the rituals and regimen I have before a match don’t change regardless of the opponent. I always do the same things. Rather, they are not just superstitions, but also make me feel more at ease. I’ve been used to it since I was little. They have been doing the same things for 7-8 years.
– Would you give a prediction for the derby?
– I hope we win!