Krasimir Balakov has repeated Bulgarian claims that England needs to put its own house in order when it comes to racism.
Five thousand seats in the Vasil Levski Stadium will be unoccupied on Monday as punishment for racist behaviour among the crowd during matches against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.
And the build-up to the contest against England in Sofia has been dominated by discussion of how England players will react if they are subject to similar abuse.
That brought a furious response from the president of the Bulgarian Football Union, Borislav Mihaylov, who called the talk ‘derogatory’ and he has now been backed up by his nation’s coach.
Balakov declared: “What I can say is that I don’t think we have a problem in the Bulgarian championship. We have a lot of players of different ethnicities and skin colour. I don’t think we have as a big a problem like, for example, England do.
“In the Bulgarian championship we have not had such problems while there have been incidents in all levels of English football involving racism.”
Despite the incidents that led to the stadium’s partial closure, Balakov is confident they will not be repeated on Monday evening, saying: “It’s not an issue that has happened recently at the national team games and I would like the game to be a celebration of football.
“My personal opinion is I can never be certain of what will happen – I’m not often certain about what will happen on the pitch even – but I do not think we should continue talking about something that has not even happened yet and increase the tension in the build-up to the game.
“I will ask everyone to respect the rules in order for everyone to enjoy the game.”
Balakov was flanked by one of Bulgaria’s black players and defender Georgi Pashov added: “I’ve spent almost all of my career in the Bulgarian Championship and I do not recall any problems or racist chants.”
On the field, there has been little cause for Bulgarian fans, Pashov or Balakov to celebrate for a good while, the team currently on a run of ten games without a win.
And Balakov, who took over the reins in May, did not sound overly confident of causing an even bigger upset than the Czechs conjured up on Friday.
He said: “Every time a new coach comes in he has different philosophies and I have only had six combined days to work with these players over the last few months and we cannot change that much in this short period of time.
“Nobody’s happy with the results and we have to be realistic about it – we are playing one of the best teams in the world, one of the most dynamic tams in the world.
“And although we are playing at home, we have to have in mind the quality of England.
“But I want an attractive game and if, like in 1993, God is with is, we will get a result.”
Balakov was referring to the dramatic late win in the Parc de Princes that earned Bulgaria place at World Cup ’94 and knocked France out.
But that was the Bulgaria of Hristo Stoichkov and there should be no-one like that to trouble England in Sofia.