Demba Ba is ineligible for the Europa League and, along with long-term knee injury victim Oriol Romeu, is the only definite absentee at Stamford Bridge. Captain John Terry could return for the clash with the Romanian league leaders.
Interim manager Rafael Benitez may decide to freshen up his line-up with a possible fixture pile-up looming. But the Spaniard insists that Chelsea have the squad to deal with a busy schedule of matches every few days :
“What I have to do is to pick the team for each game and be sure it’s a very competitive team for each competition,” he said.
As well as the Europa League, the Blues can still win the FA Cup while chief executive Ron Gourlay has stressed the significance of finishing in the the top four to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
But Benitez is refusing to prioritise one competition and will focus only on Chelsea’s next fixture.
“I will try to lead by example, so I will concentrate on the next game,” he said.
“That is what I have to do, to make sure we compete in every single competition. The first one will be tomorrow.”
Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta backed his manager’s assertion that the club can compete on all fronts.
“We have the squad to play in all the competitions,” he said.
“We want to win trophies. Now we have three objectives. This is the next one, to carry on in the Europa League.
“We want to win every trophy. It’s an objective and we’re not going to sacrifice any competition.”
If the form book is anything to go by, then Chelsea will find it a more difficult task than many are suggesting.
Steaua are very much a team in form. Sitting 12 points clear at the top of their domestic table, Laurentiu Reghecampf’s side have won nine of their previous 10 league outings.
In that run, dating back to October, they have found the back of the net 30 times, surprisingly losing the odd game away to mid-table Brasov.
Nonetheless, it’s an impressive run and despite a rather drab affair against the Blues last week, a more flamboyant approach from Benitez’s men may get the fans on their feet, but it will create vulnerabilities for the Romanian’s to exploit.
We’ve seen exactly that at Stamford Bridge this season and in years gone by with Chelsea chasing results only to be caught out by their opponents.
Indeed, don’t bet against the Romanians’ taking advantage, either. Steaua’s away form in the Europa League this term is one not to be scoffed at, with them lost just once on the road, winning three and drawing twice.
The most impressive of those results came away to FC Copenhagen on Matchday 6 as they drew 1-1 to book their place in the Round of 32. Were they to have lost that game, Steaua could have missed out on qualification, but they held on to win the group ahead of Stuttgart and the Danes, who themselves failed to qualify.
Facing Chelsea is an altogether different challenge, however. We can expect the Blues to pick up where they left off at Old Trafford on Sunday, where they ended the 90 minutes in control and should have beaten Manchester United.
Steaua may have won on home soil in the first leg last week, but despite their obvious threats, it will be difficult to look beyond the might of Chelsea come Thursday.
Projected Lineups :
Key Stats :
- Steaua‘s first-leg victory over Chelsea represented the first ever competitive meeting between the two sides.
- Frank Lampard has registered the most Chelsea appearances in Uefa competitions, having played over 100 times in Europe for the Blues.
- In four European home games this season, Chelsea are yet to taste defeat with two wins and two draws.
- The Blues’ top scorer in European competition this term is Oscar. The Brazilian has scored six times in total, with his last goal coming against Sparta Prague in the last-32 first leg.
- As well as topping their Europa League group this season, Steaua Bucharest are 12 points clear at the top of their domestic league.
- Steaua have also won their last five games in all competitions.
- The Romanian side overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Ajax in the last 32, eventually clinching the tie 4-2 on penalties.
Steaua are in good form, but struggle away from home against big clubs and don’t have the best record in England, either… 3-1 Chelsea.