The Romanian champions won 1-0 versus Slovan Liberec a week ago and has the freedom to choose a strategy for tonight’s second leg. A goal scored would probably discourage the Czechs, but it seems that Ioan Andone will try to play it safe, keeping things tight at the back and hoping for a lucky strike on a counter. With Ciprian Deac injured, an attacking winger will make room for a more defensive minded player on the left side, while Modou Sogou is expected to make a step back from the front line and leave there only Greek centre-forward Pantelis Kapetanos. With Sogou and Rafael Bastos (scored a brace during the weekend) in support of Kapetanos, CFR will need a lot of luck to surprise the hosts from open play, who should be very careful on set-plays, though.
Coming back with a draw and a goal scored in Istanbul looked like a win for FC Vaslui, but everyone’s cautious before tonight’s match. Last season’s runners-up lost 0-3 during the weekend on CFR’s ground and, although the scoreline was harsh, it should have affected the team’s morale. Hopefully, the effect will be positive and the players will start the second battle versus Fenerbahce with modesty and determination, willing to give it all just to come a step closer to the Champions League’s group stage.
Fenerbahce received 1.000 tickets in the 15.000 seats stadium from Piatra Neamt, where Vaslui has an incredible record in Europe: 6 wins and 5 draws in the 11 matches played there. The atmosphere should be hot, but nowhere near what happened a week ago, when the team responded in great fashion and Liviu Antal’s goal almost silenced the crowd. Tempted to go for a 0-0, Marius Sumudica, the coach, admitted that this could be a suicidal approach and I have to agree: the new back four needs more time to gel, the team lacks proper balance and Vaslui’s main strength was always the attack. With Antal on the right, the excellent Lucian Sanmartean on the left and Nicu Stanciu, probably the brightest talent in Liga I at the moment, behind an experienced striker like Marius Niculae, Vaslui can hurt any team, but would that be enough tonight, if the defense fails to keep it together?
Tonight, last season’s champions and runners-up will enter a competition with an incredible financial stake considering their yearly budget and both CFR and FC Vaslui will give it all to reach the group stage of the Champions League. Unfortunately, a tough task awaits, with two preliminary rounds against tough opposition in front of them and a difficult first set of teams to knock-out.
With two draws in the first two rounds of the season, CFR Cluj will face tonight Slovan Liberec, a team I saw quite a few times last season and relies on a solid, experienced back-bone, losing this summer one important piece of the puzzle: the enthusiastic right-back Theodor Gebre Selassie. Latest news from the opposition’s camp should be encouraging for the hosts, as Slovan will miss Nezmar and Rabusic, key players in defense and attack. CFR’s main weakness is at the back and coach Ioan Andone admits that “there are issues there that need to be addressed, but it’s good to see that the players are aware of this and refuse to celebrate properly even when they score a goal”. Andone fears Slovan’s striking force and highlights the Czechs’ scoring record from the previous season and he announced that in the first leg the main goal is to avoid conceding at home. CFR’s main strength is the ability of Greek striker Pantelis Kapetanos to find a decisive strike out of the blue. He did it twice in Liga I so far and will be at the end of most of the Romanians’ attacking moves tonight.
You can read more on CFR Cluj here.
FC Vaslui has a more difficult task than the champions, having to make its’ debut on Fenerbahce’s stadium, in a very hostile environment and against a strong and ambitious squad. Coach Marius Sumudica looks set to use his team’s main strength, the attack, in the away game, hoping that the goal(s) scored will make the difference after 180 minutes. “We are not in Istanbul to defend, we want to score!”, warned Sumudica, who started the season well, with a win and a draw, scoring 5 goals in the process. The team lost its’ star, Wesley (the Brazilian would have missed the first leg anyway through suspension), but has added some quality players to the team, having experience at both ends, thanks to goalkeeper Dani Coman and striker Marius Niculae. Vaslui’s main weakness is the lack of cohesion within a squad that has a lot of new faces in the ideal starting eleven, but will be encouraged by the first displays of the newcomers, as well as the input of Lucian Sanmartean, who stepped up immediately after Wesley’s departure and looks in great physical shape, orchestrating most of the attacks and causing panic with his excellent runs down the left flank.
You can read more on FC Vaslui here.
Trashed by Rapid Bucharest in the opening round of the new season, FC Vaslui got the needed wake-up call ahead of its debut in the Champions League’s preliminary rounds. Against a direct 4-3-3 deployed by former national team coach Razvan Lucescu, Hizo’s men often struggled and the defense simply failed to protect a young keeper who looked as a liability whenever he was in goal, in place of the more experienced Dusan Kuciak.
The club’s owner, Adrian Porumboiu, says that the players were already thinking of Tuesday’s game against Twente, and you could see that in the performances of two key players, Wesley and Adailton. The problem is that, even if the two Brazilians will play closer to their potential tomorrow, the back four and the central midfielders will be under pressure to deliver a more focused and effective performance. Or maybe that’s why Porumboiu “would accept even a loss in the first leg, as long as we manage to score.”
Twente are favorites, agreed, but I expect a better game from Vaslui, who last year created enough problems to French champions Lille. They’ve played for more than a year with pretty much the same team, so Friday’s loss might have been just the worse we’ll see from this team during the current season. I expect a game with goals at both ends, with the experience and quality of the offensive trio formed by Sanmartean, Wesley and Adailton to create a lot of problems for Twente, who should be really careful not to give away too many free-kicks in their third…
- Rapid continues to surprise with its aggressive presence on the transfer market, given the financial status of the club. The latest ambitious target for the Bucharest side is getting back Cristian Sapunaru (25), from FC Porto. The right back, who was sold in Portugal in the summer of 2008 and collected so far 22 matches in the Liga Sagres, would take this opportunity in case he will be suspended for hitting a steward after the match against Benfica.
- The Slovakian defender Marian Cisovsky (30) has returned to full fitness after four months spent on the sidelines. Cisovsky, who had played in 27 matches and scored three goals in his first season in Romania, had suffered a knee injury in the Champions League qualifying match against VFB Stuttgart. After Milos Brezinsky (25), he’s the second important defensive player that returns from a long injury and, with the adition of Cosmin Contra, coach Ioan Ovidiu Sabau has every reason to look forward to the second half of season, in which the Viola outfit will be pushing for the title.
- Former Romanian international and Barcelona captain, Gheorghe “Gica” Popescu, intends to invest in a second football academy, in Targoviste. He already has one located just outside Craiova, spread over 50.000 square meters, which produced a number of valuable players. The first good “products” were the established Ovidiu Burca (Energie Cottbus), Ionut Rada (ex Rapid and Steaua Bucharest), Mihai Dina (Universitatea Craiova, but now there’s a new generation that includes the promising Sebastian Mladen, Alexandru Pena, Alin Petrea and Adrian Stoian (all transferred to AS Roma), Sabrin Sburlea (FC Brasov), Liviu Ganea (Dinamo), Lucian Filip (Steaua).