Thu 14 Mar 2013 20:05 (Attendance: 28,817)
For our second tie in this competition, Stamford Bridge will again host the decisive second leg. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are ready to welcome the Romanians…
Exactly a year ago today Stamford Bridge witnessed a night on which the Chelsea lion roared to one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history.
High-flying Napoli led 3-1 from the first leg in southern Italy and only a brilliant goal-line clearance from Ashley Cole prevented a worse deficit. Even in times of bleakness Chelsea offers hope.
In the return Walter Mazzarri's men, favourites to progress until 15 minutes from the end of normal time with the score 2-1 to the Blues, were taken to extra time by Frank Lampard and then blown away as Branislav Ivanovic swept in the most important goal of his career.
Only four other sides have overcome a two-goal first leg deficit in the Champions League - the Blues were victims in another, against Barcelona in the 1999/2000 quarter-final.
Two months later Didier Drogba stroked in the winning penalty to bring the European Cup to London for the first time.
The champions of Europe were humbled in the group stage this season, though, and an additional cost was extra Europa League matches added to an already congested fixtures list.
Chelsea's love affair with the FA Cup - represented in a remarkable record of one defeat in 39 games (excluding shootouts) - has complicated the schedule even further. The Blues' magnificent 4,500 away supporters at Old Trafford witnessed a second half as inspirational as Napoli.
And, as much as the sheen of league champions elect Manchester United appeared tarnished at the end, with Chelsea unfortunate not to win 3-2, the Londoners' young, transitional team came together in an energetic passion play seen too rarely this season.
However the FA Cup replay has now been shoe-horned into a calendar that would see Thursdays 4 and 11 April booked for the Europa League quarter-finals should the Blues shoot down the Star tonight. Chelsea already travel to Southampton on Saturday 30 March and host Man United on the Monday lunchtime.
In Chelsea's potentially record-breaking season for matches played it would be unsettling to play three games in six days, as is now possible. But, unlike some, our club aims to compete fully in every competition.
And another moment in the perennial quest for silverware offers itself tonight, following a disappointing performance in Bucharest. Since the 0-1 defeat from a penalty kick, Steaua's controversial owner Gigi Becali has suggested on Romanian TV that the European champions were lost, 'destroyed', slow, and incapable of scoring three goals against the Liga 1 leaders.
He obviously did not expect relegation-haunted Ceahlăul Piatra Neamţ to put three past his beloved side the very next weekend, albeit in a 4-3 away win. Steaua (pronounced Stay-oo-uh) have never won on English soil and lost on their last four visits. Further evidence, perhaps, that football is a game best played, not predicted.
Do remember this is an 8.05pm kick-off. Should the score after 90 minutes be 1-0 to Chelsea extra time will be played and, if necessary, penalties. Any other scoreline will result in the game ending after normal time as the away-goals rule applies.
Chelsea have won three of our last five penalty shoot-outs, the last and most famous being at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Steaua have won all four of their shoot-outs in Europe, the most recent being against Ajax in the previous round.
The draw for the Europa League quarter-finals is tomorrow (Friday) at 11.40 GMT. It will be an open draw, with no teams seeded. Clubs from the same national association may be drawn against each other.
Tonight's eight Europa League ties
Rubin Kazan v Levante (agg: 0-0) 5pm
Zenit St Petersburg v Basel (agg: 0-2) 5pm
Internazionale v Tottenham (agg: 0-3) 6pm
Bordeaux v Benfica (agg: 0-1) 8.05pm
Chelsea v Steaua Bucharest (agg: 0-1) 8.05pm
Fenerbahçe v Viktoria Plzeň (agg: 1-0) 8.05pm
Lazio v VfB Stuttgart (agg: 2-0) 8.05pm
Newcastle v Anji Makhachkala (agg: 0-0) 8.05pm
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
Chelsea must overturn a 0-1 deficit to put the European champions' name into tomorrow's draw. How can that be achieved?
This is an important marker for the status of Romanian football. Steaua's first-leg victory, earned with a penalty, was well-received in a country starved of European success for a quarter of a century.
Rafael Benitez has stated his and Chelsea's key target this season as being qualification for next season's Champions League and the Blues supporters may indicate a similar priority should tonight's crowd fall short of the usual numbers. Ramires and Victor Moses were rested for the away leg.
Steaua's manager Laurenţiu Reghecampf said yesterday that his side will aim to annihilate Chelsea's players of 'extraordinary talent' and aim to win again. He knows their strength lie in team work and organisation rather than individual brilliance.
Their standout performer from the win in Bucharest, roaming left-back Iasmin Latovlevici (pictured below), may be ruled out through injury, removing one of their main offensive threats.
With a place in the quarter-finals the prize, he may also be worried his players might freeze on foreign soil as they did in Amsterdam, where they lost 0-2 to Ajax. Stamford Bridge is expected to be suitably chilly in any case.
The Steaua coach is also expecting difficulties on set-plays, where the Londoners are stronger than Ajax and his own team, but suggested he might resist the temptation to play his three tallest defenders - Lukasz Szukala, Vlad Chiriches (who both featured last week) and Florin Gardos.
For his part, Benitez will be hoping the delivery into the area will be better than in the first leg and that the Blues show more patience in possession, especially in the final third. Carrying over some of the energy and pace of the second-half performance at Old Trafford into this match would also be handy.
The Romanians have not kept a clean sheet away from home since the qualifying round of this tournament, but they have an in-form goalscorer in Raul Rusescu. Chelsea's sole option as striker in this competition is Fernando Torres, with three goals to his name in UEFA matches this season and the Blues' attacking midfield has weighed in too, Oscar scoring an impressive six.
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
WE HAVE HISTORY
Our only previous meeting with Steaua Bucharest came in the first leg, although we met their compatriots CFR 1907 Cluj in the 2008/09 Champions League group stage, beating them 2-1 at the Bridge.
Rafael Benitez made five changes from the side that had beaten West Bromwich Albion for last Thursday's match in Romania. In came less regular starters such as Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Bertrand; Ramires and Victor Moses were left at home and Juan Mata stayed on the bench for the first hour.
It was a bumpy pitch unconducive to slick passing and the Chelsea players - targeted by dozens of green laser pens from the home stands all evening - were distinctly out of sorts.
The hosts began conservatively, defending deep and working hard to harass the Londoners in their half of the field. Midway through the opening period Steaua stepped up their offensive game and began to dominate possession, the Blues bypassing the boggier midfield and playing the ball long, and to little effect. John Terry and David Luiz were the best performers in blue shirts on the night, though Benayoun and Fernando Torres should both have done better in front of goal when rare opportunities presented themselves.
Just past the half hour mark the Romanians, who had threatened Petr Cech's goal very little up to that point, broke into the box through Raul Rusescu, fed by a fine pass from Iasmin Latovlevici.
Bertrand was caught the wrong side of the forward and the touch of an arm was enough for Steaua's top scorer to tumble for a penalty which Rusescu himself converted.
The Blues were second best for half an hour until Juan Mata came off the bench and 10 minutes later Eden Hazard made way for Marko Marin. Marin had an angled effort saved and Luiz saw his 25-yard free kick fizz wide, neither being of sufficient quality. It was that sort of night.
Dan Petrescu, one of two Romanians who have played for Chelsea 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
Chelsea 13-0 Jeunesse Hautcharage - 29/09/1971
European Cup Winners Cup first round second leg
Steaua's biggest away win in Europe
Sparta Prague 1-5 Steaua Bucharest - 07/09/1988
European Cup first round first leg
Chelsea won at Stamford Bridge in this competition: 3,829
Steaua kept a clean sheet away in Europe: 203
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,853
Liverpool won the league: 8,348
Visit again at lunchtime for Part Two of the Briefing.
The Blues are unbeaten in 10 home European games (eight wins, two draws) since losing to Manchester United in the 2010/11 Champions League quarter-finals.
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 28th 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 home record against Romanian teams|
|2008/09||CFR Cluj||W 2-1||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 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|
|Mar 7||Steaua Bucharest (Europa League a)||L 0-1|
|Mar 10||Manchester United (FA Cup a)||D 2-2|
Scorers Mata 17, Torres 15 (1 pen), Lampard 13 (5 pens), E Hazard 11 (2 pens), Oscar 9 (1 pen), Ramires 8, 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 111.
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Sun 17 Mar||West Ham home||4pm|
|Sun 31 Mar||Southampton away||4pm|
|Mon 1 Apr||Man United (FA Cup QF replay) home||12.30pm|
Frank Lampard needs one goal to reach 200 goals for Chelsea and three to equal our all-time top scorer Bobby Tambling.
If selected, John Mikel Obi will make his 50th European appearance for the Blues. He will join six players who have reached that milestone for Chelsea: John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Joe Cole.
Chelsea's next European goal will be our 300th in UEFA competition. This does not include the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup that was not under the jurisdiction of UEFA.
Congratulations to Marko Marin who celebrated his 24th birthday yesterday (Wednesday).
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 have spent their whole 56-year history in the Romanian 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
Steaua Bucharest were the first east European team to win the European Cup (in 1986).
Steaua have won five of their 15 matches against English opposition but have yet to win away from home, where they have lost their last four.
|Steaua's away games against English teams in Europe|
|1997/98||Aston Villa||L 0-2||UEFA Cup third round first leg (agg 2-3)|
|1999/00||West Ham||D 0-0||UEFA Cup second round first leg (agg 2-0)|
|2003/04||Southampton||D 1-1||UEFA Cup first round second leg (agg 2-1)|
|2003/04||Liverpool||L 0-1||UEFA Cup second round first leg (agg 1-2)|
|2005/06||Middlesbrough||L 2-4||UEFA Cup semi-final first leg (agg 3-4)|
|2007/08||Arsenal||L 1-2||Champions League group stage|
|2010/11||Liverpool||L 1-4||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|
|Round of 16|
|Mar 7||Chelsea (h)||W 1-0|
Europa League proper scorers (excluding qualifying games):
Rusescu 4 (2 pens), Chipciu 2, Chiricheş 2, Latovlevici 2, Costea 1, own goal 1. Total 12.
|Last six domestic results|
|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|
|Mar 10||Ceahlăul Piatra Neamţ (a)||W 4-3|
|Liga 1 top seven|
|3||Pandurii Târgu Jiu||22||+6||41|
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Referee Stéphane Lannoy, his two assistant referees and two additional assistant referees, are from France. Lannoy was in charge of our Champions League group stage match against Bayer Leverkusen at Stamford Bridge last 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 and five yellow cards
Steaua (15): Bourceanu 3 (already served his suspension), Chipciu 2, Latovlevici 2, Prepeliţă 2, Chiricheş 1, Filip 1, Gardoş 1, Nikolić 1, Pintilii 1, Popa 1
Chelsea (10): D Luiz 3 (already served his suspension), Bertrand 2, Ramires 2, Cahill 1, Cole 1, Mikel 1
When Steaua Bucharest levelled up Juan Mata's first-half goal just before in the interval, Chelsea were facing an uphill task to keep our European campaign alive, but an attacking display with plenty of chances created in the second half yielded the goals needed - John Terry scoring from a set-piece and then Fernando Torres netting the vital third.
Torres then missed a late penalty, keeping the tension high against opposition with their own cutting edge. Petr Cech made saves in each half but we go through to the quarter-finals.
John Mikel Obi and Eden Hazard, impressive in the second half at Old Trafford, were given starts in place of Frank Lampard and Victor Moses. John Terry returned to partner David Luiz in central defence and cup-tied Demba Ba was replaced by Fernando Torres.
Steaua were unchanged from the first leg.
With the visitors leading 1-0 after the first meeting, the tie was set up for one of those gripping and nail-biting nights of European football, and so it proved. Chelsea showed early penetration down our right flank. One swift move found Mata who switched play to the left where Hazard's touch left the ball slightly behind him and the chance to shoot was missed. Mikel, following up, had his own effort blocked on the edge of the area.
For all Chelsea's initial possession it was Steaua who had the first proper chance and Chelsea had once again reason to be grateful to Cech. Mikel had the ball pinched from him and suddenly Rusescu was away behind a chasing defence. His shot was a good height for the Chelsea keeper who was able to deflect it wide of the far post. There were 12 minutes played and an away goal had been avoided.
The Steaua skipper Bourceanu was not too far away from the top corner of Cech's net with an ambitious effort soon after.
Cech had to deal with another shot before the Blues rallied and worked the Steaua keeper for the first time midway through the half. There was some fabulous play from Hazard under pressure out on the right in the build-up and when Mata crossed, the chance fell to Mikel. His shot was low, well-hit and on-target but Tatarusanu got down to push it wide.
The keeper had less luck on 33 minutes when Mata drew the tie level with a shot that hit Tatarusanu but still went in. Oscar and David Luiz had worked to win the ball on halfway and send Mata forward. He fed Ramires who made a penetrating run through the middle before returning the ball to Mata. Showing clever footwork, the Spaniard moved it on to his right for the finish. 1-0.
Chelsea looked to quickly follow up the goal. Torres shot powerfully wide before Hazard, who was causing Steaua all sorts of problems with his ability to ride challenges, tested the keeper who beat a stinging shot out.
Just before the interval it needed an important recovery tackle from Cole deep inside the Chelsea area to prevent Popa having a go at goal, after the Chelsea left-back and David Luiz had let the winger escape much further up the pitch.
The Blues had been in the ascendency but that Steaua attack was a warning shot. On the stroke of half-time, the corner that followed was initially blocked by Torres with Cech keeping out a follow-up shot, but he could do nothing when defender Chiriches fired high into the net from close range.
Chelsea needed at least two more goals, just as we had at the start of the second period in the previous match at Old Trafford. Bourceanu sliced down Mata on the halfway line to earn the game's first booking.
Rapa followed into the book for taking down Hazard out wide but 10 minutes had passed between those cautions without a Chelsea chance.
Mata remedied that from the free-kick for the foul when he found the head of John Terry, who scored with one of his classic near-post headers. Now the requirement was one goal with just over half an hour to play.
Steaua were looking increasingly ragged in defence as the Blues pressed them back but still we couldn't keep our back door secured. Cech had to save a dangerous shot from Chipciu.
Torres put Chelsea back ahead in the tie with 70 minutes played, finishing from inside the area with his left foot across the keeper, after Hazard flicked on Mata's pass. It was a clean and clinical move and we were now leading 3-1 on the night.
Moments later there was a strong claim for penalty for a foul on Torres as he turned back inside Szukala whose sliding challenge clipped the Chelsea striker. The official behind the by-line was close by but still the decision didn't come. The same defender's boot then inadvertently gave a prone Torres a nosebleed.
We needed the insurance of more goals. This tie was still on a knife edge. Oscar and Torres both went close.
On 85 minutes we were finally awarded a penalty, and there was no debate as Bourceanu clumsily hacked at the shin of Hazard, the night's outstanding attacker. With no Frank Lampard on the pitch there were a few candidates to take it but Torres stepped up. His second goal of the night proved elusive as he fired high onto the crossbar, a miss that thankfully didn't prove costly.
It was Chelsea who went closest to a stoppage-time goal with Mikel having another shot blocked and substitute Yossi Benayoun narrowly failing to apply the finish when Torres fired across the face of goal.
We will find out our next opponents when the draw is made tomorrow at 11.40am UK time.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry (c), David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Mikel; Oscar, Mata (Moses 90), Hazard (Benayoun 90+3); Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Bertrand, Lampard.
Scorers Mata 33, Terry 58, Torres 71.
Booked Mikel 69, Cole 80.
Steaua (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Rapa (Adi Sobrinho 83), Szukala, Chiriches, Latovlevici; Pintilii, Bourceanu (c); Popa, Chipciu, Tanase (Tatu 78); Rusescu.
Unused subs Stanca (GK), Gardos, Filip, Prepelita, Iancu.
Scorer Chiriches 45.
Booked Bourceanu 49, Rapa 57.
Referee Stéphane Lannoy from France.