How Chelsea's 1-0 Loss to Steaua Bucharest Will Affect Manchester United Clash

Rowanne WesthenryFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2013

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - MARCH 07:  Frank Lampard of Chelsea apologises to a team mate during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 match between FC Steaua Bucuresti and Chelsea at the National Arena on March 7, 2013 in Bucharest, Romania.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Chelsea traveled to Romania for their Thursday night Europa League tie with Steaua Bucharest anticipating a similar challenge to the one presented by Sparta Prague in the previous round. What they found was an organised side lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation who used their home advantage to its fullest.

The pitch was not the smoothest of surfaces but it was the Blues' insipid performance which told the real story of the night.

A drab first half was given a kick-start after 33 minutes when the Romanian side were awarded a penalty. Striker Raul Rusescu was held back in the box by Ryan Bertrand and converted the resulting spot-kick despite Petr Cech going the right way.

Chelsea's best chance of the night came from a Yossi Benayoun effort from just inside the box, which Ciprian Tatarusanu got down smartly to save. Fernando Torres also had a shot saved, albeit more comfortably, and Eden Hazard saw his second half volley whizz just over the bar.

With only three shots on target from eight in total, Chelsea appeared demotivated and uninspired. Despite all the rhetoric expressing their desire to end their season winning Europe's second competition in Amsterdam, their lacklustre performances since entering the competition are disproving this.

Without an away goal they will need to be more focused in the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 14, but they will face a sterner test before then.

The Blues travel to Old Trafford on Sunday to face a Manchester United side still smarting from their European exit at the hands of Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid.

Nani was sent off for United in a 50/50 decision by the referee and the Red Devils will struggling to deal with the feelings of injustice that accompany a result affected by the referee. Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to turn that injustice into a passionate fight for the domestic double as United look to beat the holders of the FA Cup in their quarterfinal match.

Rafa Benitez will be unlikely to inspire his Chelsea side in the same way, and with both teams having rested key players in Europe with one eye on this mouth-watering match, it will be the mental approaches taken by the teams that make the difference.

When the two met twice in one week in October 2012 they won one game apiece, Chelsea winning the Capital One Cup tie with United triumphing in the League game under controversial circumstances.

Branislav Ivanovic was shown a straight red card for bringing down Ashley Young before Fernando Torres received a second yellow five minutes later for diving, despite going to the ground following contact from Johnny Evans.The Blues had rallied back from 2-0 down to level the tie but an offside goal from Javier Hernandez was allowed to stand, giving United a 3-2 win.

If Benitez is looking for a source of inspiration to give his side the boost they will need, he could do worse than sticking a DVD of that game on and letting the players do the rest.