Chelsea FC host Romanian giants Steaua Bucharest in the second leg of the round-of-16 Europa league tie at the Stamford Bridge tonight. The English club lost the first leg 1-0 and would look to turn this tie around at home turf.
Chelsea are currently fourth in the league and two points behind third place Tottenham with a game in hand. Given the turmoil the club has faced both on and off the pitch this season, third place finish is the best the fans could hope for. Rafa Benitez has been the talk of the town lately and his relationship with the fans has gone from bad to worse with every passing day.
But the cup competitions have provided the Spaniard a chance to redeem himself. In their FA cup match against Manchester United last weekend, the Blues made a wonderful comeback after conceding two early goals. They showed great spirit in the second half and Ramires’ equaliser in the 68th minute means they have now forced a replay with the Red Devils. While the replay means that Chelsea will now have an even more congested fixture list, but more significantly they are still in the contention for two trophies this season.
Steaua Bucharest on the other hand are sitting comfortably at the top of their domestic league table. They have a 12 point lead over Astra Giurgiu, which should be enough to seem them capture the Liga I title this season. Laurențiu Reghecampf’s side are on a fine run of form and have won their last five matches in all competition. In fact their last defeat was in the first leg of their Europa League tie against Ajax in the last round.
Raul Rusescu’s goal from the spot in the first half of the first leg was enough to separate the two teams. In truth Chelsea didn’t play to their full potential and were poor on the night. Despite several first team players being rested, it was a strong enough line-up fielded by Rafa Benitez. At home, they will need to take control of game from very first minute if they want to elongate their stay in Europe.
Fernando Torres will be back in the starting line-up after featuring on the bench against Manchester United last weekend. He will replace Demba Ba, who is cup-tied and ineligible for this match. Oriol Romeu remains sidelined due to his long-term injury.
John Terry is expected to return to the starting eleven in place of David Luiz, while Mikel, who made a great impact since coming on the second half of the FA cup tie against United, will start in place of Ramires alongside Frank Lampard in the midfield. Mata and Cole, who didn’t start in the first leg of this tie, should feature as Benitez will look for an early goal to settle the nerves at Stamford Bridge.
Steaua Bucharest’s only injury concern for this match is their midfielder Daniel Georgievski, who is yet to fully recover from his fibula injury and is unlikely to feature. Laurențiu Reghecampf is unlikely to make any change to the starting line-up from the first leg of the tie, although he has forwards Stefan Nikolic and Adi Rocha available once again as the duo have recovered from their respective injuries.
Chelsea Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) – Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole; Lampard, Mikel; Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Torres
Steaua Bucharest Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1) – Tatarusanu (GK); Rapa, Szukala, Chiriches, Latovlevici; Bourceanu, Pintilii; Popa, chipciu, Tanase; Rusescu