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Steaua Bucharest v Chelsea: Europa League Match Preview
Author: The Needle Published : 07 Mar 2013 14:51:37
Chelsea's quest for continental glory continues as they travel to Steaua Bucharest for the first leg of their Europa League last-16 encounter. The Blues landed the UEFA Champions League crown in 2012 and will be looking to make it back-to-back successes 12 months on.
Slipping out of Europe's premier club competition at the group stage came as something of a blow, but Rafa Benitez has made it clear that his side will be going all out to land a consolation prize.
Chelsea edged out Sparta Prague in the round of 32, with a 2-1 aggregate win seeing them through.
Benitez will be looking for a more polished performance against Steaua, with Thursday's trip to Romania offering them an opportunity to take a positive result back to Stamford Bridge.
The hosts will be no pushovers, though, having overcame Dutch giants Ajax at the previous stage. A 2-0 victory on home soil gave them the chance to prevail on penalties and they will be determined to claim another prized scalp.
Benitez will likely give due consideration to Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United in his team selection, but captain John Terry may start in central defence and midfielder Yossi Benayoun is available again following an ankle problem which kept him out of the defeat of West Brom.
Steaua's only absentee for the game is Stefan Nikolic, who must undergo surgery on a long-standing knee problem.
Laurentiu Reghencampf's side are 12 points clear at the top of the Romanian league and their only loss in their last seven games was the first leg with Ajax, at the Amsterdam Arena where the Europa League final will be held in May.
Reghencampf said: "Each of our players know what they have to do and I believe we can qualify. The players are in good physical shape and are very prepared. Of course, there are two matches and everything will be decided in London."