Unirea Urziceni, Romanian title holders, the team already considered Liverpool’s marked victim, in the UEFA Europa League double. Here are some (hopefully) interesting facts, statistics and personal views, ahead of the first leg, that will be played at Anfield on the 18th of February:
- Unirea is, at this point, an unpredictable team even for Romanian fans and pundits. The departure of Dan Petrescu (THE guy who invented the team that won the title and collected eight points in the Champions League group stage) and the appointment of Ronny Levy as head coach should have brought some changes in the team’s tactics, mentality and approach. Usually a very, very disciplined team, with an organized game and paths followed by the players with their eyes closed, Unirea could and should have changed partially their style under the Israeli coach.
- Although Romanians haven’t seen a single friendly game played this winter, press reports suggest a switch from the usual 4-1-4-1 system to a 4-2-3-1. Without a single player bought during the mercato period (and three departed, striker Danalache, who wasn’t among the players registered for the Champions League, and wingers Tiberiu Balan and Dacian Varga, both dangerous offensive weapons and regular starters in the first half of season), Levy will try to use wisely a decent roster by Romanian standards. Besides Varga and Balan, Levy will be without the solid anchorman Ricardo, who turned up very late after the winter break, and he will also have to leave out one of the team’s best players, the Argentinian Brandan (who feels jaded after a missed transfer to Stuttgart), so, most likely the starting eleven will look like this: Arlauskis – Maftei, Galamaz, Bruno Fernandes, Bordeanu – Paraschiv, Apostol – Semedo, Onofras, Frunza – Bilasco. So, even those tempted to say that Unirea looks pretty much the same way like before, the fact is that Levy will be without the best left back, the best anchorman and the best wingers. So, if the Romanian champions are to stand any chance, he’d better have produced some tactical miracles.
- Latest news give Portuguese right winger Semedo little chances to feature in the first leg. In case he won’t make it (twisted an ankle on 31st of January) Levy will have every chance to deploy a more defensive team, as he did in the last three friendly matches: a 4-4-2 with Dinu Todoran on the right side of midfield and Onofras will be the second striker with the task of dropping down (he has excellent stamina and work rate) when the Reds have the ball and pushing forward on the channels created by centre forward Marius Bilasco.
- Unirea played 7 friendly matches since the team resumed training, winning 4, drawing 1 and losing 2 – 7 goals scored, 2 goals received. For those interested in betting, not a single match finished “over 2,5”.
- One player in particular has an interesting story. Epaminonda Nicu (30) is the only player that was part of the wonderful adventure which saw this small club progressing from Romania’s third tier to the title and the Champions League group stage. Nicu improved impressively and always gave his best to rise to the challenge, playing both as central defender and right back. Since 2003, he collected 161 matches in Romania for Urziceni and only this season, after the transfer of former Rapid Bucharest skipper Vasile Maftei, he found it more difficult to get a place in the starting eleven.