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5 Romanian clubs, 1 step away from the Europa League group stage

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

It all went surprisingly well in the first leg. Away wins, wins to nil at home, goals scored away by the only two out of five teams defeated last Thursday. It all went too well, actually, so let’s take a look at what could go wrong in tonight’s matches…

Dinamo Bucuresti – Vorskla Poltava (1-2)
The Red Dogs were unfortunate to receive a second goal in the 89th minute, but they couldn’t hold on anymore after Grigore’s dismissal for a second yellow card, in the 65th minute. Besides the centre-back, another two important players will be missing through suspension, striker Marius Niculae, who has been in terrific form this season, and promising winger Marius Alexe. With Gabriel Torje already thinking about his move to Udinese, it might be tougher than the 10.000 fans are probably expecting.

Gaz Metan Medias – Austria Vienna (1-3)

The away goal is important, but this small team needs to produce another miracle, after sending out on penalties Mainz, in the previous round. Florin Bratu and Thaer Bawab both scored on Monday in a perfect 3-0 win against newly promoted Vointa Sibiu, with winger Ciprian Petre confirming my expectations and providing two assists in that game. The problem is that Medias scored only after a set play, with Vointa easily defending in a first half that so no clear cut chances and no goals. Although Cristi Pustai rested team captain Todea, he lost Georgian defender Akaky through injury, who joins attacking midfielders Parvulescu, Dudita and Muntean on the sidelines…

CSKA Sofia – Steaua Bucuresti (0-2)

After a very open game in the first leg, in which the Bulgarian side missed a huge chance to score a vital away goal through… Romanian forward Ianis Zicu, I expect a very open match in Sofia. And looking how Steaua desperately defended at times last Thursday, this could easily go wrong, in spite of what looks like a perfect score. Ronny Levy has problems at right back, where he lost both Gabriel Matei and Novak Martinovic, so will have to improvise with Banel Nicolita, whom lots of managers consider better in this role. But he is a good coach, with a good possession & attacking philosophy and a single goal should be enough to temper and eliminate the home side.

Rapid Bucuresti – Slask Wroclaw (3-1)

I know Slask is doing great in Ekstraklassa, but they have been totally outplayed in the first leg, by a quicker, more aggressive and better organized team. Can’t see what could go wrong here, with Rapid free of injuries and suspensions, a team that won a few days ago in the league even without several first team players that should be fresh and in top form for tonight’s game.

Sparta Prague – FC Vaslui (0-2)

This result came as a huge surprise to me, but FC Vaslui deserves full credit for taking advantage of a terrible day from Sparta, who couldn’t take advantage of the home side’s improvised first eleven. Lucian Sanmartean was absolutely outstanding on the day, tormenting Sparta’s defense with his dribbling ability and vision in the last third and today he will be joined upfront by another 2 key players for Vaslui: Wesley and Adailton! So, scoring an away goal is definitely on the cards, as Sparta will have no choice, but to take chances and push forward, and it would be a nice reward for Vaslui’s owner, who has been spending a lot of cash to constantly improve the team and always push for a higher position in the league. The Romanian club will remain vulnerable at the back, where 21 years old striker Ionut Balaur should start his fourth game as a central defender, so Sparta can find a way back in this, by scoring one and hoping that the pressure in the final minutes will be too much for a team without European experience and unable to be as solid at it can be in defense.

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Europa League’s group stage: who’s going to make it?

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

With five team knocking at the door this season and some average opposition in most of the cases, Romanian football hopes to grab this chance by the throat and try another good season in Europe, where it can still send directly into the group stage of the Champions League the champion club, even its name is Otelul Galati.

Steaua Bucharest – CSKA Sofia

The game will be played in Cluj, as Steaua has been forced to abandon their stadium in Bucharest and, in spite of playing tonight in front of a lot of fans, they will look once again as if they’re playing away from home. The two clubs fought all summer for the signature of Brazilian forward Ribeiro Moraes, who decided in the end to play for CSKA, while the Bulgarians’ main threat is considered Liga I’s top scorer from last season, Ianis Zicu.

Steaua will field a decent starting eleven, but Levy still has a lot of work to do to get this team going, as it badly misses creative players in midfield, but relies on two quick forwards, Tatu and Mihai Costea, to make the difference.

Slask Wroclaw – Rapid Bucharest

During the weekend, Rapid deployed a surprising 4-4-2 against newly promoted Petrolul, a match which they struggled to win (1-0, goals scored in the 87th minute), but this might have been part of a strategy to deceive the Polish club. Razvan Lucescu knows how to approach such games and he was there when Rapid managed the club’s best ever performance in an European competition. I expect a return to a 4-3-3 with Romeo Surdu and Ciprian Deac on the flanks, a midfield trio formed by Iulian Apostol, Dan Alexa and Ovidiu Herea, but the player that has impressed the most is Marcos Antonio, the rock solid Brazilian centre-back, who will certainly play a big part especially in this first leg.

Vorskla Poltava – Dinamo Bucharest

Dinamo hasn’t changed under Liviu Ciobotariu and, if this team stands a chance to get a result, than the attacking line must produce at least a couple of goals. It has worked so far, but the away game versus NK Varazdin could have gone wrong in a lot of delicate moments. Dinamo cannot use the promising Marius Alexe on the left wing – accused by fans that he’s not playing as good as he can since Chelsea added his name on what is probably a very long shortlist – and will move there the experienced Catalin Munteanu. It might be good for him, as Munteanu has an excellent service and the veteran Ionel Danciulesc plus Dinamo’s captain Marius Niculae could use some quality balls upfront. All eyes will be once again on the dynamic little right winger Gabriel Torje, who catches the eye, but could also “catch a black eye” if he keeps playing by himself every single time  he gets a pass in a good position.

FC Vaslui – Sparta Prague

Vaslui’s in a mess. They have finally scored, after four consecutive matches in which they had failed, but the win against newly promoted Concordia Chiajna has a cost: the Brazilian Adailton, who provided 3 assists in the 3-0 away success, is now injured and his name is added on a very long list. Team captain Wesley is suspended for this game, but coach Viorel Hizo has a depleated team, with central defenders Papp, Canu, Milanov and Gladstone injured, plus midfielders Pavlovic and Milisavljevic transfer listed and recently excluded from the team.

Austria Vienna – Gaz Metan Medias

Gaz Metan managed to survive in the double against Mainz, going through on penalties, but they will also face Austria Vienna against several first team players. In fact, Cristi Pustai has been forced to give up  the impressive trio of supporting players for the lone striker, as Parvulescu and Munteanu are out injured and Brazilian key attacking midfielder and prolific scorer Eric de Oliveira is on the verge of switching clubs before the transfer window closes. It will all come down to Gaz Metan’s ability to defend, which can look average at times, and their luck to score at least once in tonight’s encounter, when they should be more dangerous on set-plays than on counter-attacks.

Adailton assists FC Vaslui’s first win of the season

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Last season’s third placed team, FC Vaslui, went on a run of four defeats without a single goal scored at the beggining of the season, moving from the qualifying matches for the Champions League to the Europa League play-off in the meantime and looking very poor in Liga I.

Adrian Porumboiu, the owner, looked more reasonable than usual and yesterday the team delivered. A 3-0 away win against the newly promoted Concordia Chiajna might not have anything extraordinary about it, but it surely is a sign that this team cannot perform worse than last season, at least not against Romanian opposition. My guess is that Sparta Prague’s emissaries also returned home with some worrying notes…

If the Prague outfit still relies on experience, that’s something Vaslui doesn’t lack either, with the Brazilian duo Adailton-Wesley finally producing a performance closer to its standards. Adailton managed to provide the last pass for each of Vaslui’s goals, but the first, scored by Wesley, was a sign of perfect synchronization between the two forwards. With one of his often decisive late runs in the box, Wesley scored his 33rd goal in Liga I in 82 appearances and is only three goals shy of the all-time best foreign scorer in the Romanian league, the Albanese striker who used to play for Dinamo Bucharest, Sulejman Demollari.

It would be a mistake to get carried away, though, as Vaslui still has to wait until the 10th of September to have a transfer ban lifted and the team certainly is short on luck, with the starting pair in central defense, Paul Papp – Gabriel Canu, recently injured.  The club is in such a mess that against Chiajna Viorel Hizo paired Pavol Farkas with a Romanian player who is in the squad for a few years, but was kept there as a solution for the attack, not the back four! It might have worked against Chiajna, but it could go very wrong against Sparta and Porumboiu – although he deserves credit for paying high wages and brining good foreign players in the league – has to take part most of the blame for not having a youth center and a reserve team able to supply the first squad with a decent youngster in such difficult times…

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