With Papp, Rapa, Gardos, Torje and Sburlea drafted by Razvan Lucescu for the Cyprus tournament, Emil Sandoi will use today’s test versus Turkey to see a new wave of players and lay a new foundation. It’s enough to look at the names to realize that we’ll surely make another step back from the decent level reached with a team that just missed out on a final tournament, after a tense playoff with might England. We’re talking about unknown players even for most of the Romanian football fans, who aren’t regulars at their clubs and only a couple of them, like Alibec (Internazionale Milano) and Alexe (Dinamo), can be regarded as stand-out players, capable to make a difference. There’s good potential in Steaua’s Radut, Standard’s Grozav will be interesting to watch, but the question marks are all over the defensive line. Here’s the selected team:
Goalkeepers: Pena (AS Roma – Primavera), Draghia (Rapid)
Defenders: Mustata, Bejan (Steaua II – plays in the second division), Buleica (Universitatea Craiova), Mladen (AS Roma – Primavera), Leca (ASC Berceni – plays in the third division), Muth (Gaz Metan Medias)
Midfielders: Suciu (AS Gubbio – Serie C), Stoian (Pescara – Serie B), Brata (Pandurii Targu Jiu), Radut, Matei (Steaua), Tiganasu (Astra Ploiesti), Selagea (Unirea Alba Iulia – plays in the second division), Grozav (Standard Liege)
Forwards: Alibec (Internazionale Milano), Alexe (Dinamo).
PS If Turkey look at least decent, this might be a very good opportunity to make some money, with the home win available at around 1.8!
- 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.
After three consecutive 0-0’s, the latest at home, against Rapid Bucharest, Unirea Urzceni doesn’t look at all capable of producing the surprise againt Zenit. Forget the first leg, dominated by Spalletti’s players, Levy’s men look very tired after three difficult matches in seven days, which should have been used to find a top shape and gain quickly match fitness, in order to match the Russian side. And, if things didn’t look bad enough, Unirea lost Sorin Paraschiv, who sustained an injury in the first half and he joins a long list of unavailable central midfielders: Paduretu (suspended), Apostol, Ricardo (injured), Todoran (not registered).
Levy’s options become very limited, in this case: for the anchorman role, he’ll have to change the back four, with Vasile Maftei and Pablo Brandan, the only options to cover this position. Maftei should be first choice, as he could give an extra hand in central defence, but Levy could also take into account the fact that no other centre-back has featured this season and keep the same pair in the middle, while putting the experienced Valeriu Bordeanu at left back and free Brandan for this empty slot. The Argentinian plays well as a central defensive midfielder, but only did it in a 4-2-3-1, never alone, in a 4-1-4-1.
Although important, Levy’s choice will count for nothing unless Unirea’s players can pull yet another miraculous effort. And I doubt this will happen, as, without a natural central midfielder in the first eleven, Unirea will have to field a lot more offensive players than they would have liked, with the line of four midfielders most likely to be formed by Semedo (winger), Onofras (second striker), Marinescu (attacking midfielder) and Frunza (winger) – all offensive players, totally ineffective in pressing, tackling and tracking back their opponents. I expect an easy second leg for Zenit and a profitable one for those who already can’t wait to see the odds for this game.
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.
It’s getting close to the end and this is something I’ll probably do on a regular basis, in this blog’s second season: offering some info useful to those who are looking for winning bets.
- Pandurii – Politehnica Iasi – these two look like relegated teams already, but there is still some hope. Surprisingly, after losing two vital points against Gaz Metan, Politehnica Iasi managed to mess up the trip to Pandurii. The players will go there by bus, not by plane! We’re talking about a 600 km trip, which in Romania should take around 10 hours. And, with just three days between the rounds, at this stage of the season, it’s definitely going to affect the visiting team.
- Dinamo – FC Timisoara – the home team should be a bit more relaxed after Rapid’s draw away at Medias, they are pretty sure of their place in Europe next season. This should add to the huge defensive problems, where three regular starters will be missed: Molinero (right back), Moti (central defender) and Pulhac (left back). Grigore just returned after a long lay-off and will be probably paired with the average Scarlatache, while on the flanks Talnar will have to “invent” two full-backs. Be careful, though, as Dinamo never relied on its defense, so it could be better to expect only a game with goals at both ends…