According to their UEFA coefficient, Steaua Bucharest is the 66th best team in Europe over the last five years. This is important, because it represents a big step up from the 72nd-ranked Sparta Prague. Six whole big steps up! Chelsea better be bringing their A-game to this one because, you know, we care so much.
...the priority at the moment is this one.
No worries though, Interim has assured everyone that he has in fact seen Unholy-vowel-combination-death-scream (Steaueaaueaueaaeu!) play at least once - on tape, presumably - and that "they can play from the back, that they have good balance and that they can play high or counter-attack." So basically they can play football. Reassuring.
I bet Ajax Amsterdam didn't think Steauauauaua could play football when they came here with a 2-0 first leg lead only to lose by the same scoreline and then eventually get eliminated on penalties. Those fools!
Of course, this whole "playing football" concept isn't new to the Romanian outfit - they once beat Barcelona to claim a European Cup and lost in another final just three years later. That second final, a 4-0 defeat to one of the greatest teams ever, even featured a 21-year-old Dan Petrescu - alongside a veritable plethora of amazing names: Hagi, Ancelotti, Maldini, Baresi, Costacurta, Donadoni, Gullit, Rijkaard, van Basten, etc. Those are names of the heroes of my childhood and I just got a bit nostalgic for a minute.
Snap back to reality! Look, it's B.Nitez! Yo you sign me up to battle? I'm a grown man! Chubba chubba chubba chubba chubba chubbie... I don't have any lines to go right here so...
Date/Time: Thursday, March 7, 18:00 GMT; 1:00 P.M. EST; 11:30 P.M. IST
Venue: National Arena, Bucharest, Romania
TV Information: ESPN (UK); Fox Soccer (USA); TEN Action (India)
Being the only decent team in the country, Steaua Bucharest has a comfortable 12-point lead in the Romanian League. The fact that they haven't placed in the top two since 2008, or that they last actually won it in 2006 is surprising and it doesn't fit my narrative at all. This is the team, after all, that holds the European record for an undefeated streak (104) and once won their league 11 out of 14 seasons (placing second in the three non-winning seasons).
But I guess those are past glories and now it's a bit different (right, Chelsea?). Interim singled out #24 in his press conference - a certain Raul Rusescu - who it turns out is not only Steaua's leading scorer but by quite some margin (18 to 11) is the leading scorer in Romania. Really going out on a limb (the same limb where 2+2=4) with that dangerman call, there, Mesero.
The other name you may recognize is Vlad Chiriches - no, not because he shares a first name with Dracula - but because the 23-year-old defender had been tenuously linked with Chelsea. There's also somebody called Cristian Puscas, who apparently never plays but I bet he would if he spelled his last name with a 'k' instead of a 'c'.
As far as your Chelsea Football Club... Well, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that some players are actively being rested for this one. The bad news is that Juan Mata is not one of them. You see, Chelsea only took 19 players to Romania, leaving Oriol Romeu - who must wonder why he's still getting mentioned in these previews - Demba Ba, Ramires, and Victor Moses at home. (Nathan Ake was left behind, too, presumably for youth team action.)
Demba Ba is cup tied; that's clear. But whatever the thinking process behind the last two absentees is, I assure you that it is on such a high algorithmic Rafatation level that mere mortals cannot even begin to comprehend it. Sure, Ramires has played a ton, but if there's one player on the squad with boundless energy, it's him. And Victor Moses? He's only played the least amount of minutes (199) among the Three Musketeers (Juan Mata - 269; Oscar - 258; Eden Hazard - 202) over the last four matches and he was the d'Artagnan starting on the bench this past weekend versus West Bromwich Albion.
Not to mention, for the whole 2012-13, Moses is by far the least burdened of the four, despite his Africa Cup of Nations commitments (Hazard - 3696; Mata - 3615; Oscar - 3526; Moses - 2075; minutes data from Transfermarkt, including all competitions and teams).
Sense, this makes none. Here's a gif to sum it up; no it's not a Harlem Shake: