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
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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.