Tue 01 Oct 2013 19:45 (Attendance: 36,713)
Matchday two takes Chelsea away for the first time in this season's Champions League. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton provide the background to the game in Bucharest…
Home defeat. Hostile away ground. Laser pens. And now rain. Four inches of rain have fallen over three days and the retractable roof at the National Arena in Bucharest was closed only yesterday. The deluge may still take some toll on tonight's playing surface: there may be more running water outside the ground than flowing football inside it.
The third of Chelsea's four successive away games takes us to the home of another side familiar from last season in Europe. Like Matchday 1 opponents Basel, a side we beat en route to victory in last season's Europa League final, Steaua are not to be underestimated though they lack experience in the world's elite club competition.
The last visit ended in a disappointing 0-1 first-leg defeat, but the Romanians were defeated 3-1 a week later back at the Bridge. The Chelsea players will be highly motivated to prevent the same disappointment tonight. Hopefully the laser pens that were prevalent in Bucharest last time round will be strongly dealt with by officials should they reappear tonight. The rain is harder to harness.
Steaua were recently fined after their supporters threw fireworks in the preliminary round match at FK Vardar this season. In June UEFA had already investigated the Romanian champions under Articles 2.04g, 2.05 and 2.10 of the Champions League regulations, relating to 'arranging or influencing the outcome' of domestic matches.
After pleas of mitigation they received a one-year ban, deferred for a probationary period of five years. Outspoken club backer Gigi Becali, who mocked Chelsea at the time of the last tie, is, however, currently serving a three-and-a-half year sentence for multiple crimes including bribery.
The Liga 1 leaders come into this match having played on Thursday in the Romanian Cup and Saturday in the league. Both were handsome home wins, the first against amateur opposition with a much-changed XI, the second over mid-table Liga 1 opponents.
They were taken apart 3-0 in Gelsenkirchen by Schälke on the opening night of the Champions League - their only loss of the season so far and their first away since Stamford Bridge. Chelsea's was the more surprising defeat, 1-2 at home to the Swiss champions who were quite easily dispatched earlier this year.
Jose Mourinho has set a minimum target of 12 points for his side from the remaining 15 available. Steaua have not won any of the nine home group games in their last three Champions League campaigns.
It is almost exactly a year since Chelsea last triumphed on foreign soil in this competition, a 4-0 drubbing of Danish club Nordsjaelland. Juan Mata scored twice in Copenhagen (pictured below) and, following two performances closer to the type he would like to see, Mourinho has already confirmed the Spaniard as a starter tonight.
John Terry's goal against Tottenham on Saturday was his first ever against the Lilywhites in 25 meetings. He has now hit the net in 14 consecutive seasons.
Should one of the sides win the other Group E match tonight they would take a three-point lead into back-to-back fixtures where Chelsea play Schalke home and away and Steaua face Basel.
Other Group E fixture
Tuesday 7.45pm - Basel v Schalke
|Champions League Group E table|
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
Last season's 0-1 defeat in Bucharest was more a result of the lack of intensity and pace in Chelsea's play. Perhaps there was a little complacency, and certainly the team was much changed from the previous match.
Jose Mourinho has already warned that failing this evening might leave the Blues needing to win all remaining fixtures in Group E. The fact that he named Juan Mata in his starting line-up 72 hours before kick-off proved again that the Portuguese is not only a fine man-manager but had planned ahead for this fixture already.
Of the known absentees against the Romanian league leaders Mourinho did not ask Kevin De Bruyne to travel, Marco van Ginkel underwent surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament last week and Eden Hazard has a minor injury.
Some observers have suggested the last 45 minutes at White Hart Lane gave the first glimpse of the second coming of the Special One, a team playing as he requires it. Yet the performance, albeit in defeat, against Bayern in the Super Cup was as powerful and impressive as Saturday's.
The key to the way the manager wants his side to play is players winning and retaining the ball in the opponent's half whenever possible. That was not something Mata was required to do under previous bosses but he responded against Spurs, putting pressure on their high line of defence.
Since he is banned next weekend the equally fired-up Torres may keep his place in the starting line-up this evening. He will hope to cause Steaua's rearguard many more problems than was the case back in March.
Against Schalke in the first group game, the Romanians' defensive line held well until the Germans opened the scoring through a dreadful misjudgement by Ciprian Tatarusanu. After that they lost their positional discipline and were picked apart with quick, short passing, perhaps betraying their inexperience at Champions League level.
Greece forward Pantelis Kapetanos has 14 games under his belt at this level and Ionuţ Neagu four - both snapped up on transfer deadline day - but 13 players were making their competition debut against Schalke, as was coach Laurenţiu Reghecampf.
Eight Chelsea players have played more times in this tournament than the entire Steaua squad.
Tall 30-year-old striker Kapetanos returned to Steaua after two years at CFR Cluj. He scored in the defeat and played 90 minutes in the away win against Manchester United during the 2012/13 group stage.
He has been used sparingly since arriving, sharing sole striker duties with bustling former Serie B journeyman Federico Piovaccari, but is almost certain to face the Londoners and went closest for Steaua in Germany.
Both Bucharest's goalscorers in this tie last season have since left the club. Raul Rusescu is now with Sevilla and Vlad Chiriches switched to Tottenham. Winger Alexandru Chipciu, who played all of both matches, is a long-term injury victim
It was the scheming skipper on the left wing, Alexandru Bourceanu (pictured below), who was behind many of Steaua's better moments last season and he was a thorn again in Schalke's side two weeks ago, especially from whipped-in corners.
Another key man for the Army Team known to the Blues was attacking left-back Iasmin Latovlevici, who not only excelled defensively but used the width of the pitch to cause problems in the final third.
The Blues must be more decisive in front of goal to raise hopes of success in the Champions League, starting tonight. Although two creative attacking midfielders, Hazard and De Bruyne, are ruled out Mourinho has Mata, Oscar, Andre Schurrle and Willian, with Ramires or Cesar Azpilicueta as other options behind the striker. The Spanish right-back put in an impressive cameo against Tottenham.
If the confident authority of the second half at White Hart Lane is carried over, the visitors should create plenty of chances against a side that shipped three against a team sitting 14th in the Bundesliga.
WE HAVE HISTORY
This is only the second competitive meeting in our history against Steaua Bucharest. Last season in the Europa League round of 16 Chelsea arrived in Romania having beaten West Brom 1-0 at the weekend and with an FA Cup quarter-final against Man Utd to follow on the Sunday.
Interim manager Rafael Benitez rang the changes, bringing in John Terry, Fernando Torres, Ryan Bertrand, John Mikel Obi and Yossi Benayoun. Victor Moses, Ramires and the ineligible Demba Ba stayed in London and Ashley Cole and Juan Mata began the evening on the bench.
It was a lack-lustre first-half performance from the Blues in terms of attacking commitment and creativity but the hosts rarely threatened. It took a soft penalty award to break the deadlock in the 34th minute.
Cole's replacement Bertrand (pictured below) found himself defending a Latovlevici cross the wrong side of Raul Rusescu, but was harshly judged to have fouled the striker, who fired the resulting spot kick past Petr Cech's hand.
Benayoun had the chance to level shortly before the break but his rolled finish did not have enough on it to beat goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Tatarusanu was rarely genuinely troubled despite making several saves. Following Mata's late introduction fellow substitute Marko Marin cut inside cleverly but then fired straight at the keeper.
David Luiz went close with a dipping free kick from distance, but the Blues could not restore parity and had to overcome a 0-1 deficit in the second leg.
14 March 2013 Europa League Round of 16 second leg
Chelsea………..…..….3 Steaua Bucharest…..……1
Mata 33 Chiriches 45
Dan Petrescu, one of two Romanians to play 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 the Champions League
5-0: v Galatasaray, 20 Oct 1999, first group stage
Steaua's biggest home win in the Champions League
1-0 twice: most recently v Widzew Lodz, 16 Oct 1996, group stage
Chelsea won away in the Champions League: 364
Steaua beat an English team in UEFA competition on home soil: 208
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,055
Liverpool won the league: 8,550
The Blues have topped our group in seven of our last 10 Champions League campaigns. Last season was the first time we failed to progress to the knockout stage.
Chelsea have won eight and lost seven of our last 22 away games in the Champions League.
|Chelsea's away record against Romanian teams|
|2008/09||CFR Cluj||D 0-0||Champions League group stage|
|2012/13||Steaua Bucharest||L 0-1||Europa League round of 16 first leg|
Chelsea's last 10 years in Europe
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
2012/13 - Europa League - winners, having transferred from the Champions League group stage
|Last six results|
|Aug 30||Bayern Munich (Super Cup) lost 4-5 on pens||D 2-2|
|Sep 14||Everton (a)||L 0-1|
|Sep 18||Basel (Champions League h)||L 1-2|
|Sep 21||Fulham (h)||W 2-0|
|Sep 24||Swindon (Capital One Cup a)||W 2-0|
|Sat 28||Tottenham (a)||D 1-1|
Champions League games since
An away win: 2
An away draw: 3
An away defeat: 0
|Chelsea's next three games|