CFR should forget the dream and prepare for a nightmare
“I’ll never forget that match, but I am ready to produce another similar performance. I think we could qualify from this group!” These are the words of the Argentinian Juan Emmanuel Culio, the man who stunned Olimpico two years ago with a winning brace that probably delighted the bookmakers and offered CFR the right to dream in a group that also featured the mighty Chelsea and Laurent Blanc’s Bordeaux. Should the world think twice before writing off the Romanian champions, ahead of Tuesday’s clash? Not really.
Even though Culio looks in decent shape, you can’t say the same about a team that will probably feature just four of the “heroes” that produced one of Champions League’s biggest surprises. Stancioiu should start in goal, the experienced Panin will play at right back, while team-captain Cadu will try to keep things tight at the back, an impossible mission looking at CFR’s recent games, including the 2-1 home win against FC Basel.
Leaving aside Sorin Cartu’s problems in finding a winning formula, the team suffered another huge blow on Friday, in the hot derby against Universitatea, losing the valuable Gabriel Muresan, the anchorman, a vital player in defense, a hard tackler in midfield and a good organizer when CFR’s in possession. With the Portuguese Dani recently sold, Cartu finds himself in a surprising position, knowing the number and the quality of players available in theory. He uses a centre-back as a left back, but the winning gamble on the massive Ionut Rada from the first match might soon be regretted, will have to shuffle his cards in midfield, moving Emil Dica and Emmanuel Culio from the flanks (where they played on Friday) into the middle, as the Argentinian Sixto Peralta has not been registered for this competition, which also happened to the often decisive striker Cristi Bud.
So, unless Cartu moves a centre back in front of the back four, he’s famous in Romania for his ability to defend ugly, we could see a 4-4-1-1 that could lead to a high scoring game, with Lacina Traore the front man and, after a convincing 20 minutes against Universitatea, Roberto De Zerbi in support, in a first eleven that should look like this: Stancioiu – Panin, Cadu, Alcantara, Rada – E. Kone, E. Dica, Culio, Leonardo Veloso – De Zerbi – Traore. The key misses are Muresan (defensive midfielder), Peralta (central midfielder), Bjelanovic, Bud, Yssouf Kone (strikers), too many for an underdog that will take heart in the fantastic win from two years ago, but could be severely punished for daring to dream of another huge surprise…