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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: STEAUA BUCHAREST V CHELSEA

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…


TALKING POINTS
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.

KEY STAT
Steaua Bucharest were the only team in the round of 32 to progress to the last 16 after losing the first leg.


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.

Steaua Barcelona


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.'

KEY TWEET
Which onetime Blue named his baby daughter Beatrice Chelsea? #CFCPMB


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

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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: STEAUA BUCHAREST V CHELSEA

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.

Salomon Kalou


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


DAYS SINCE
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


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