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.
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.