- Sportul Studentesc – CFR Cluj
The newly promoted comes after a 3-0 defeat away at Gaz Metan Medias, but will have a difficult time bouncing back against the reigning champions. Even though CFR’s stars played poorly so far in the league and had the results they deserved, this is a good opportunity to put behind the 2-2 home draw against Astra Ploiesti. Sportul has the league’s worst defense, which isn’t at all surprising looking at the quality of the players available, their youth and lack of experience, starting from both keepers used so far and including pretty much all the defenders in the team. The fact that Sportul likes to attack without looking or holding back doesn’t help either and a lot of their games will produce goals at both ends, something that should be taken into account today, as CFR’s back four looked terrible since the start of the league and the trio Varga-Curelea-Balan boasts quality and desire to impress. The champions are favorites in my opinion, as they’re definitely tactically and physically stronger, especially in midfield, where Kivuvu is expected to start alongside Muresan, while Rafael Bastos showed nice playmaking abilities in his first game for CFR. There’s a dilemma wheather Traore will be fit enough to start, but Bud is in stand by, so there is quality backup for Bjelanovic, who will definitely miss through injury (expected to be out for almost two months!).
- Rapid Bucharest – Gloria Bistrita
This is the first difficult moment for Rapid and its coach, Marius Sumudica, who asked for the fans’ support, in order to help the players forget about the incredible 2-3 loss away against arch-rivals Dinamo, after leading 2-0 at half time. If we look back, we could think that Gloria’s visit comes at the right time, as Rapid won 10 of the last 11 meetings on their home ground, but Bistrita isn’t the same generous team from the past, at least not in the first half of the season . The Vampires come after a first and impressive win of the season, 3-0 against Pandurii, with the goals scored by the club’s top players: Muresan, Predescu and Ribeiro Moraes, the Brazilian brought to Bistrita by Rapid’s coach, Sumudica! They’re at the same level as last season, looking well organized and solid, but I have some doubts about their defense, which should be tested to the max this evening. Rapid welcome back Roman on the right side, which should move Juliano Spadacio in the middle, alongside Lazar, so the front men, Sburlea and Herea (scored an impressive brace against Dinamo!) can count on quality balls provided both from the well-equipped flanks, as well as the middle of the pitch.
The other games: FCM Targu Mures – Dinamo, Astra – Universitatea Craiova, Pandurii – Gaz Metan, Universitatea Cluj – Otelul Galati, FC Vaslui – Steaua, FC Timisoara – Victoria Branesti, FC Brasov – Unirea Urziceni.
One game played so far, excellent results for both teams. Steaua managed to come back from 0-1, away, at Universitatea Cluj, while Craiova was unlucky to get just one point at home, against the reigning champions from CFR Cluj. Morale is excellent for both sides, expectations are high – the game looks unpredictable. Still, there are facts that should help an experienced player make an “inspired” pick for tonight’s match:
- Steaua will be playing in front of a full house, all the 25.000 tickets have been sold, the home team will count on an intimidating crowd indeed, after a long period of conflicts between the fans and the club’s owner. Keep in mind that Universitatea has one of the youngest teams in the league, but also that the pressure could also get to Steaua’s players (a lot of new faces).
- Steaua’s first game was based on ball possession, while Craiova was the outsider against CFR, so we can expect pretty much the same approach tonight. The guests will rely on their defense, which looks weak on the left flank – a natural centre-back, Ciuca, is used as a left back – but managed to keep at bay CFR’s impressive strike force, the champion club failing to send 1 (one) shot on goal in 90 minutes! The counters will try to speculate Costea’s pace (lacks composure, so he can waste even 1-v-1 situations) , but I expect Piturca to block the man with the decisive pass, the Bulgarian Gargorov, who was a complete unknown for CFR.
- Craiova doesn’t have a natural left winger, which is good news for Steaua’s manager, unhappy with his right back’s performance in the first game. Steaua’s full backs should have a lot of freedom to push forward, while the four creative midfielders will test to the max the defensive ability and stamina of Craiova’s two defensive midfielders, Barboianu and Dilevski. Both have a tendency to dive into tackles, yellow cards are almost guaranteed.
- Steaua’s lone striker, Bogdan Stancu, scored the winner in the first official game, but all the attacking players have good morale and come from convincing performances.
- Steaua – Universitatea Craiova are usually tensed matches, so I expect a few tough challenges and full determination from everyone involved.
- The match starts at 19.00 CET and will be broadcasted live by DigiSport.
Pick: Both teams to score @ 1.90 (Gamebookers)
Hot Romanian derby, but between two teams who play unconvincing football at the moment. Dinamo is in a must win situation, while Steaua could settle for a draw. Which won’t be 0-0. I’ll explain why:
- Dinamo’s firepower. There’s an incredible competition upfront, between established strikers like Marius Niculae, Florin Bratu, Andrei Cristea and Claudiu Niculescu, plus the young guns Alexe, Torje and Zicu. All quality players, who can rely on the likes of the experienced Bostina and N’Doye in midfield, plus the talents of the inconsistent, yet very skilful Adrian Cristea. Dinamo scored twice away against CFR Cluj and at least once in every game played this year. Read more…
Favorite on paper, due to the massive difference in terms of points, value and aspirations, Rapid received only good news lately, regarding their first opponent in 2010. Besides their problems with unpaid debts (including the players’s wages for the past two-three months), the hosts are presenting a very long injury list, which should only increase the gap in terms of quality that separates these two teams.
Poli will miss the following key players: Branet (first choice goalkeeper), Munteanu (team captain, regular starter, either as a central defender or as a left back), Ilie (regular starter, central defender or central defensive midfielder), Ignatov (regular starter, Bulgarian central midfielder), Constantin (one of the main offensive threats, left winger) and Balba (rotation player, striker).
Rapid has not just a more valuable roster, but also far less injury problems, with doubts over the involvement of Sapunaru and Gauracs, but both are new players and the Bucharest side didn’t lose the regular starters from the first half of season. They’re well equipped all over the pitch, with several new choices in midfield and attack, where Cesinha and Iordache should make it hard for coach Nae Manea to choose the supporting players for the lone striker that would be Ionita, the centre-forward bought by FC Koln in exchange of 2,5 mil. EUR, but who’ll stay at Rapid until the end of the season.
The only problem is that the pitch conditions (which could be terrible – soft, muddy pitch) could seriously affect the players’ performance and even the game’s outcome, but as Poli didn’t train on the home ground to protect it as much as possible, in the end, this could be yet another unexpected bonus for Rapid.
The match will be player on Saturday, starting 18.00 CET.