Thu 07 Mar 2013 18:00 (Attendance: 45,000)
Following our win in Prague it is back to eastern Europe for the next away game in Chelsea's campaign in this competition. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton provide the first-leg facts and figures…
This is the 50th game of the 2012/13 season for the champions of Europe and the first time the club has ever set foot in Bucharest.
Ramires travels to Romania one goal better off after the strike at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, deflected off Fernando Torres, was officially credited to the Brazil midfielder. That contributed to a current sequence of five Chelsea victories from the last seven matches in all competitions, with the sole defeat coming on the home patch of the reigning Premier League champions.
Tonight's opponents Steaua - meaning Star, and portrayed in yellow on their badge since 1989 - resumed their domestic league campaign on at the end of February after a two-and-a-half month pause for winter.
It would be misleading to call it a break - they played 10 friendly matches, including 1-2 defeats at Celtic and Dynamo Moscow, managed by former Bucharest and Chelsea legend, Dan Petrescu. They won both Liga 1 matches without conceding and top the table by eight points.
This is routinely described as the best Steaua side since that which dominated Romanian football in the 1990s, if not quite up to the level of the European Cup-winners of Seville 1986, when (post-Heysel) English clubs were banned.
That year the Army Men of Duckadam (pictured below making a save), Lăcătuş, Belodedici et al saw off Terry Venables' Barcelona, the former Blues player's side including Berndt Schuster and Steve Archibald. Two hours of football produced no goals and the penalty shootout was almost as net-averse. Duckadam saved all four of Barça's attempts, Steaua lifting the big ears with just two successes.
Sadly Romanian football suffered a long decline following that peak and a corruption scandal resulted in foreign referees being temporarily employed to handle top-flight matches in 2009.
According to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, today's match pits first in the world against 36th, Chelsea having toppled Messi's Barcelona in their latest rankings, published 1 March. Atlético are in second place, Bayern third.
Petr Cech achieved a great personal milestone at the weekend too. His 138th Premier League clean sheet against West Bromwich Albion lifted the Czech above David Seaman for shutouts at one club.
In the light entertainment capital of the Netherlands there will be a smattering of people supporting the Chelsea team by travelling to the wrong country.
When Ajax beat Steaua 2-0 in the first leg of the previous round, several Blues fans saw the side win 1-0 in Prague and took a chance to save money, booking their trip to Amsterdam for tonight's match. At least it is pretty certain who the locals will be supporting.
Eden Hazard's last-minute scorcher ensured Chelsea progressed but the Romanians stunned many as they overturned their deficit. Ajax seemed as confident of progress as those Chelsea fans, lacking urgency and making poor decisions at either end of a heavy, bumpy Bucharest field.
Only after Steaua levelled the aggregate scores did Frank De Boer's side display the urgency and dominance that might have seen them through.
The penalty shootout was a prosaic affair, the Hollanders missing twice, Steaua scoring all of theirs - the most influential figure, Iasmin Latovlevici, crowning his goalscoring evening with the winning spot kick.
An added incentive for the Londoners tonight to avoid conceding in Bucharest is their thumping 'goal music' over the PA. They used to air a version of Scooter's earworm track 'Maria (I Like It Loud)' but have now moved on. However, if the German techno doesn't give fans the Blues the ubiquitous droney man with a megaphone in the crowd might.
There will be no Queen played tonight, however. Controversial right-wing politician and Steaua owner Gigi Becali has banished them from the stadium PA system. Yes, even 'We Are The Champions.'
Tonight's eight Europa League ties
Anji Makhachkala v Newcastle 5pm
VfB Stuttgart v Lazio 6pm
Viktoria Plzeň v Fenerbahçe 6pm
Steaua Bucharest v Chelsea 6pm
Benfica v Bordeaux 8.05pm
Tottenham v Internazionale 8.05pm
Levante v Rubin Kazan 8.05pm
Basel v Zenit St Petersburg 8.05pm
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
Chelsea travel to Bucharest for the first time, aiming to set up progress after the second leg in London. Here's how the Blues might reach the Europa League's quarter finals.
Tonight's game reaches its conclusion at Stamford Bridge in a week's time and Chelsea will hope that home advantage will sway the tie whatever happens in Bucharest.
Rafael Benitez may rue the ineligibility of Demba Ba and his aerial ability as the centre-backs Vlad Chiriches and Florin Gardos and goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu have on occasions been uncertain when defending set-plays. With others who offer a threat in the air, though, this could be a profitable area for the visitors.
Once Ajax woke up to their plight in the previous round, they broke through Steaua's centre midfield - stripped of the suspended Alexandru Bourceanu - quite well, failing to convert openings into genuine chances, only one of their nine attempts troubling the goalie.
Where they struggled was handling the variety and mobility of the Romanians, whose target men bring their potent attacking midfielders into play. Either the Brazilian, Adi, or Raul Rusescu (pictured below), will be that spearhead. Rusescu has top scored for them with 18 goals in Liga 1 and three of the 11 they have netted in this competition. Another forward who has scored in the Europa League, Stefan Nikolić, is recuperating from knee surgery.
Steaua's manager, former midfielder Laurenţiu Reghecampf, favours a flexible formation upfront and has experimented with three at the back with wing-backs, but the arrangement was much derided after a 1-5 loss to Stuttgart in the group stage.
That result largely explains why, despite topping the group above the Germans, the Army Men have conceded 11 Europa League goals, more than anyone else in the competition.
How cautiously Reghecampf approaches this first leg of the two will be telling. Steaua's cavalier full-backs Alexandru Chipciu and Iasmin Latovlevici may be given licence to maraud forward or be reined in to handle Chelsea's wide midfielders. When the pair do join the attack they combine fluidly with an attacking midfield boasting plenty of pace and are awkward to keep tabs on.
Left-back Latovlevici in particular caused consternation to Ajax by joining the attack with pace and firing long-throws into the heart of their defence. The corollary to their pace on the counter is that Steaua can be left vulnerable when they lose possession with too many players forward.
Benitez must make selections that balance the need for speed and concentration at the back with an attacking threat, mindful that Fernando Torres is the only available striker. He has already left Ramires and Victor Moses at home in London ahead of Sunday's FA Cup trip to Old Trafford.
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
WE HAVE HISTORY
This is our first ever meeting with Steaua Bucharest, although we faced their fellow countrymen CFR Cluj of Translyvania in the 2008/09 Champions League group stage. A 0-0 draw at the Constantin Radulescu Stadium was followed by a 2-1 home victory, the Blues goals coming from Salomon Kalou (pictured below) and Didier Drogba either side of Yssouf Koné's equaliser.
The trip to Romania might have ended worse for the Luiz Felipe Scolari and his side, who found the hard-working Romanians fluent in possession and difficult to break down. Chelsea's chances were few and far between.
The hosts controlled centre midfield for periods and more quality in the final third, as well as anything less than supreme alertness from Petr Cech, would have cause Chelsea further problems. Scolari switched to 4-4-2 at half-time, ushering in the Blues' best period, which faded once Drogba left the field injured. In the end, neither side produced enough to deserve a goal.
Dan Petrescu, one of our two Romanians, started his career at Steaua. He now manages Dynamo Moscow. Adrian Mutu played for rivals Dinamo Bucharest earlier in his career.
Chelsea's biggest away win in Europe
Jeunesse Hautcharage 0-8 Chelsea - 15/09/1971 -European Cup Winners Cup 1st round 1st leg
Steaua's biggest home win in Europe
Steaua Bucharest 6-0 Young Boys Berne - 03/10/1979 -European Cup Winners' Cup first round second leg
Dan Petrescu played his last game for Chelsea: 4,700
Steaua beat an English team in UEFA competition on home soil: 2,513
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,846
Liverpool won the league: 8,341
Visit again at lunchtime for more briefing.
The Blues have won two and lost two of our away games in Europe this season.
Although we are making our debut in the Europa League, we have played three unsuccessful seasons in the UEFA Cup.
|Rd 1||St Gallen||H 1-0||A 0-2|
|Rd 1||Levski Sofia||H 3-0||A 2-0|
|Rd 2||Hapoel Tel-Aviv||A 0-2||H 1-1|
|Rd 1||Viking Stavanger||H 2-1||A 2-4|
The Blues are looking to become the only English club to win all three major UEFA competitions having won the Champions League last season and the Cup Winners' Cup in 1971 and 1998. Three clubs that have achieved it are Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich.
This is the 27th successive midweek that our players have either played for the club or been away on international duty. The last clear week all the players were at Cobham training was the last week of August leading up to the Super Cup against Atlético Madrid.
|Chelsea's away record against Romanian teams|
|2008/09||CFR Cluj||D 0-0||Champions League group stage|
Chelsea's last ten years in Europe
2002/03 - UEFA Cup - first round
2003/04 - Champions League - semi-final
2004/05 - Champions League - semi-final
2005/06 - Champions League - round of 16
2006/07 - Champions League - semi-final
2007/08 - Champions League - runners-up
2008/09 - Champions League - semi-final
2009/10 - Champions League - round of 16
2010/11 - Champions League - quarter-final
2011/12 - Champions League - winners
|Last six results|
|Feb 14||Sparta Prague (Europa League a)||W 1-0|
|Feb 17||Brentford (FA Cup h)||W 4-0|
|Feb 21||Sparta Prague (Europa League h)||D 1-1|
|Feb 24||Manchester City (a)||L 0-2|
|Feb 27||Middlesbrough (FA Cup 5 a)||W 2-0|
|Mar 2||West Brom (h)||W 1-0|
Scorers Mata 17, Torres 15 (1 pen), Lampard 13 (5 pens), E Hazard 10 (2 pens), Oscar 9 (1 pen), Ramires 7, Cahill 6, Ivanovic 6, Moses 6, Ba 4, D Luiz 4 (2 pens), Bertrand 2, Sturridge 2, Terry 2, Cole 1, Marin 1, Romeu 1 (pen), own goals 3. Total 109.
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Sun 10 Mar||Manchester United (FA Cup QF a) away||4.30pm|
|Thu 14 Mar||Steaua Bucharest (Europa Lge rd of 16) home||8.05pm|
|Sun 17 Mar||West Ham home||4pm|
Frank Lampard needs one goal to reach 200 goals for Chelsea and three to equal our all-time top scorer Bobby Tambling.
Frank's next game will be his 593rd making him our all-time third highest appearance maker, one ahead of John Hollins and behind Ron Harris 795 and Peter Bonetti 729.
If selected, Juan Mata will make his 50th career appearance in UEFA competition.
Chelsea's next European goal will be our 300th in UEFA competition. This excludes the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, which was not under the jurisdiction of UEFA.
23 Romanian league titles, last in 2006
21 Romanian Cups, last in 2011
1 European Cup in 1986
1 European Super Cup in 1986
5 Romanian Super Cups, last in 2006
Steaua Bucharest were the first East European team to win the European Cup (in 1986)
Steaua's National Arena which has a capacity of 55,200 hosted last season's Europa League final between Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.
For their last Europa tie against Ajax the crowd was 35,400.
Steaua Bucharest are looking for a first win against English opposition in six games. The last occasion they won was in the UEFA Cup semi-final first leg against Middlesbrough at home when they won by the only goal, but lost 4-2 at the Riverside in the second leg.
Steaua have spent all their history in the top flight.
Last 10 league seasons
2002/03 - 2nd
2003/04 - 2nd
2004/05 - 1st
2005/06 - 1st
2006/07 - 2nd
2007/08 - 2nd
2008/09 - 6th
2009/10 - 4th
2010/11 - 5th
2011/12 - 3rd
As was the case for our opponents in the last round Sparta Prague, the Romanian league had a winter break of 11 weeks that only resumed two weeks ago.
|Steaua's home games against English teams in Europe|
|1997/98||Aston Villa||W 2-1||UEFA Cup third round first leg|
|1999/00||West Ham||W 2-0||UEFA Cup second round first leg|
|2003/04||Southampton||W 1-0||UEFA Cup first round second leg|
|2003/04||Liverpool||D 1-1||UEFA Cup second round first leg|
|2005/06||Middlesbrough||W 1-0||UEFA Cup semi-final first leg|
|2007/08||Arsenal||L 0-1||Champions League group stage|
|2010/11||Liverpool||D 1-1||Europa League group stage|
Ten-year European record
2002/03 - Did not qualify
2003/04 - UEFA Cup second round
2004/05 - UEFA Cup round of 16
2005/06 - UEFA Cup semi-finals having transferred from the Champions League third qualifying round
2006/07 - UEFA Cup round of 32 having transferred from the Champions League group stage
2007/08 - Champions League group stage
2008/09 - Champions League group stage
2009/10 - Europa League group stage
2010/11 - Europa League group stage
2011/12 - Europa League round of 32
|2012/13 Europa League results|
|Third qualifying round|
|Aug 2||Spartak Trnava (h)||L 0-1|
|Aug 9||Spartak Trnava (a)||W 3-0|
|Aug 23||Ekranas (a)||W 2-0|
|Aug 30||Ekranas (h) W 3-0|
|Sep 20||VfB Stuttgart (a)||D 2-2|
|Oct 4||FC Copenhagen (h)||W 1-0|
|Oct 25||Molde (h)||W 2-0|
|Nov 8||Molde (a)||W 2-1|
|Nov 22||VfB Stuttgart (h)||L 1-5|
|Dec 6||FC Copenhagen (a)||D 1-1|
|Round of 32|
|Feb 14||Ajax (a)||L 0-2|
|Feb 21||Ajax (h) (won 4-2 on pens)||W 2-0aet|
Scorers Rusescu 3 (1 pen), Chipciu 2, Chiricheş 2, Latovlevici 2, Costea 1, own goal 1. Total 11.
|Europa League Group E final table|
|Last six domestic results|
|Turnu Severin (h)||W 2-1|
|Nov 26||Braşov (a)||L 1-3|
|Nov 30||Concordia Chiajna (a)||W 6-0|
|Dec 10||Astra Ploieşti (h)||W 2-0|
|Feb 25||Universitatea Cluj (a)||W 1-0|
|Mar 2||Gaz Metan Mediaş (h)||W 3-0|
MATCHDAY 8 LINE UP
|Liga 1 top seven|
|3||Pandurii Târgu Jiu||21||+7||41|
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Referee Sergei Karasev and his two assistant referees and two additional assistant referees all hail from Russia. He has sent off a player from the away team in four of the five UEFA games he has handled this season.
There are no suspensions.
Demba Ba is cup-tied having already played for Newcastle in this season's competition.
Europa League bookings list
Players receive a one-match suspension for collecting three, then five yellow cards.
Steaua (14): Bourceanu 3 (already served his suspension), Chipciu 2, Latovlevici 2, Prepeliţă 2, Chiricheş 1, Filip 1, Gardoş 1, Nikolić, Popa 1.
Chelsea (7): D Luiz 3 (already served his suspension), Ramires 2, Bertrand 1, Cole 1.
The Blues will have to overturn a 1-0 deficit at Stamford Bridge next week if we are to progress into the Europa League quarter-finals after a Raul Rusescu penalty proved the difference between the two sides at the National Arena.
Steaua dominated the first half in terms of possession, and they were rewarded in the 33rd minute when Ryan Bertrand conceded a penalty for a foul on Rusescu as they challenged for an aerial ball.
Rusescu dispatched the kick to put the hosts in front, and while we improved after the break, and went close on a couple of occasions through Eden Hazard and Marko Marin, we were unable to level the game and score what would have been a crucial away goal.
It will take a big performance in front of our own supporters to swing the tie back in our favour, but having turned around bigger deficits in the past, the players will feel confident of overcoming the Romanian side in west London.
Immediate attention now turns towards Sunday's FA Cup sixth round tie away at Manchester United.
Rafael Benitez made five changes from the team which beat West Bromwich Albion at the weekend. Into the back four came captain John Terry and Bertrand, while Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole had to be content with places on the bench. In midfield, John Mikel Obi replaced Ramires alongside Frank Lampard, who was making his 593rd appearance for the club, becoming our third highest appearance maker of all-time. There were also starts for both Yossi Benayoun and Fernando Torres.
Backed by a fervent home support, Steaua were quick out of the blocks, and after Benayoun had hooked away a first-minute corner, Alexandru Chipciu fired wide from distance as they looked to gain an early advantage in the tie.
The Blues were struggling to get on the ball early on as the hosts sprayed it around confidently, with Alexandru Bourceanu pulling the strings in midfield and Adrian Popa threatening down the right-hand side.
The individual battle between Popa and Ryan Bertrand, who had started the game well, had all the makings of a pivotal contest.
Our only sight of goal during the opening 20 minutes saw Torres get away from Iasmin Latovlevicion on the right-hand corner of the penalty box, but as the Spaniard shaped to cross he miss-controlled the ball and saw it run out of play.
For all Steaua's possession, however, Petr Cech was yet to be tested as the half-hour mark approached, with the Chelsea defence, marshalled by Terry, dealing with the steady flow of crosses from wide areas relatively comfortably.
As the half progressed, Torres was beginning to ask questions of the left-back Latovlevici, and soon after the defender was booked for one particular challenge, he was then forced into a last-ditch tackle as the Chelsea striker attempted to get beyond him and have a clear run at goal.
Twelve minutes before the break, though, the home side took the lead.
Latovlevici delivered a cross to the far-post with the outside of his boot, and as Rusescu climbed to meet it, Bertrand was adjudged to have pulled him back, handing Steaua a penalty and earning the Blues left-back a yellow card.
At first glance, it looked the correct decision, but replays showed that the Chelsea youngster was unfortunate to see the call go against him.
Rusescu was the man entrusted with taking the resulting kick, and after dusting himself down he made no mistake, firing powerfully past Cech into the bottom corner.
If any positives were to be taken from falling behind, they came in the manner of our response, and five minutes later we were almost level.
Hazard, who had been a peripheral figure for much of the first half, did well to win possession, and as he fed Benayoun just inside the box, the Israeli's shot, which looked destined for the back of the net, was somehow clawed away by Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Four minutes before the break Steaua once again had their goalkeeper to thank for maintaining their lead as he palmed away a Torres effort after the striker had taken it well on the bounce.
In truth, it had been a disappointing display during the opening 45 minutes, and there was plenty for Benitez to mull over at the break.
Both managers opted against making any changes at half-time, and it was Laurentiu Reghecampf's side who almost doubled their lead shortly after the restart when Cristian Tanase volleyed narrowly wide.
While we were pushing forward in a bid to get back into the game, attacks were continually breaking down in the final third, largely down to a combination of resolute defending from the home side and a poor final ball from ourselves.
The creative trio tucked in behind Torres were finding it difficult to influence proceedings, and on the one occasion the striker did breach the Steaua defence, latching on to a clever Lampard ball, he opted to pass when he should have taken the shot on.
Sensing the need for an injection of fresh legs, Benitez made his first substitution of the night just after the hour, replacing Benayoun with Juan Mata, and it had a positive effect.
With the clock ticking down we were beginning to turn the screw, and 17 minutes from time our best opportunity of the half went begging.
Lampard and Bertrand exchanged passes wide on the left, and as the midfielder sent a hopeful cross into the box, Torres did well to head it into the path of Hazard who fired inches over the bar.
It was to be the Belgian's last involvement as he was replaced minutes later by Marko Marin, and the substitute almost had an instant impact, forcing a decent save from Tatarusanu at his near-post.
Next to go close was David Luiz, who saw his long-range free-kick drop just over the bar, and it was clear from the reaction of the home supporters every time we were in possession that they sensed the game was far from over.
Four minutes of added time were signalled, but we were unable to profit from our possession, and in the dying minutes it was Steaua who looked the side most likely to score again, leaving us with much to do in next week's return leg.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Terry (c), David Luiz, Bertrand; Mikel, Lampard; Benayoun (Mata 64), Oscar, Hazard (Marin 74); Torres.
Unused substitutes: Turnbull, Ferreira, Azpilicueta, Cole, Cahill.
Booked Bertrand 33, Mikel 66
Steaua Bucharest (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Rapa, Szukala, Chiriches, Latovlevici; Pintilii (Prepelita 57), Bourceanu (c); Popa, Chipciu, Tanase (Tatu 81); Rusescu (Gardos 90+1).
Unused substitutes: Stanca, Filip, Iancu, Sobrinho.
Scorer Rusescu 34 pen
Booked Pintilii 49
Referee Sergei Karasev (Russia)