Arena Națională, Bucharest
1st October, 19:45 BST
Chelsea FC travel to Bucharest to face reigning Romanian champion Steaua București in the Champions League group stage fixture tomorrow. This will be the third meeting between these two clubs this year after they faced each other in the round of 16 of the Europa League last season. Chelsea scraped through in that tie by a narrow margin after winning the second leg 3-1 (aggregate score of 3-2). That was after they lost the first leg away from home as Raul Rusescu scored from the spot to provide a memorable win for Steaua București. The Romanian side will be looking to pull out a similar performance against the London club tomorrow night.
Laurențiu Reghecampf’s men have made a flying start to their domestic campaign and currently lead the points table having won six of their opening seven matches. They are coming into this fixture on the back of a comfortable 3-0 victory over ACS Poli Timisoara as Piovaccari game them an early lead in that game.
Despite their good form in the league the Romanian side didn’t make an auspicious start to their European campaign as they suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of German side Schalke in the last round. Reghecampf would want for a better performance from his side against the reigning Europa League champions at home and will hope that the intimidating atmosphere in the stadium helps them out in this fixture.
Steaua București will be without Stefan Nikolic and Alexandru Chipciu in this match due to injuries, while there are also concerns about the fitness of Mihai Pintilli who picked up a knock in training. But he is expected to recover in time for this game.
Laurențiu Reghecampf is expected to make two changes to the side that lost against Schalke. 19-year-old Gabriel Iancu is expected to start in place of Nicolae Stanciu behind the striker, while Federico Piovaccari, who scored the opener last weekend, will start upfront in place of Pantelis Kapetanos. Piovaccari has been in fine form this season and is sure to trouble the Chelsea defence. If Popa and Tanase can provide him with opportunities, the 29-year-old will find the back of the net. Alexandru Bourceanu and Pintilii will have crucial role to play in front of the defence as they will have to keep a close eye on the likes of Oscar and Mata.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu (GK); Latovlevici, Szukala, Gardos, Georgievski; Bourceanu, Pintilii; Tanase, Iancu, Popa; Piovaccari
The London club haven’t made the best of starts to their Premier League campaign having won just three of their opening six matches as much was expected of this side after the new arrivals in the summer, especially that of Jose Mourinho. But the fixture list have been tough on them as well, as they have already faced the likes of Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham.
Chelsea are coming into this fixture on the back of a controversial 1-1 draw with Tottenham. The Blues were disappointing in the first half, but came back stronger in the second half and could have snatched a win, if not for a questionable decision which saw Fernando Torres being sent off. They also made a poor start to their Champions League campaign with a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Basel, at home. It was a shocking result as Oscar’s first half goal was cancelled out by Mohamed Salah and Marco Strellar in the second half. Chelsea will need to turn around that result against Steaua București in this match or they could face an uphill task in qualifying from what seemed like an easy group.
Jose Mourinho will be without Eden Hazard for this game, as the Belgium international picked up an injury in the match against Tottenham. Marco van Ginkel is another name that will miss out this match due to injury, while Michael Essien is part of the Champions League squad. Kevin De Bruyne is also out of contention after being dropped from the travelling squad due to poor form.
The Chelsea manager is expected to make three changes to the side that was fielded against Tottenham. Gary Cahill will replace John Terry in defence as Lampard is replaced by Andre Schurrle, While means Ramires, who started on the right wing against Spurs, will drop back to the pivot, where he gave a brilliant performance in the second half of that match. Fernando Torres will face suspension from the league, hence Mourinho is unlikely to rest him in this fixture. He will start upfront with Schurrle, Oscar and Mata supporting him in attack. Mourinho was pleased with Mata’s performance against Swindon and Spurs and has guaranteed a starting berth for him in the upcoming fixture.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Mikel; Mata, Oscar, Schurrle; Torres
Prediction: Steaua București 1-2 Chelsea
Players to watch out for: Federico Piovaccari (Steaua București); Juan Mata (Chelsea)