Today in the draw for the Europa League Round of 32, Liverpool was matched against Romanian club Unirea Urziceni.
The Romanian Liga 1 winners from 2008-09, Urziceni gained eight points in the group stage of the Champions League, loosing to Sevilla and Stuttgart away from home, winning against Rangers at Ibrox and Sevilla at home, and drawing against Stuttgart and Rangers at home. Currently, Urziceni sits second in Liga 1 behind CFR Cluj.
In the group stage of the Champions League, Unirea Urziceni scored eight goals and allowed eight. Liverpool scored five and allowed seven.
Ironically, Unirea’s nickname is “Chelsea of Ialomita” (a county in Romania). It appears, once again, Liverpool has been unable to avoid “Chelsea” in the later rounds of UEFA competition.
Overall, this is a favorable draw for Liverpool, considering that Sporting Lisbon, Benfica, PSV Eindhoven, Werder Bremen, and Wolfsburg were all left in the pot when the Reds were chosen.
The Merseyside club also avoided Marseille, Roma, Juventus, and Rafa Benetiz’s old club, Valencia. Benetiz won the UEFA Cup, now the Europa League, with Valencia in 2004. Liverpool last won the UEFA Cup in 2001, and have won the competition three times total.
If Liverpool advance against Unirea Urziceni, they will meet the winner of the tie between Turkish side Fenerbahce and French side Lille, who came in second in their Europa League group. Fenerbaahce ran away with first place in their group, earning fifteen points with the 2nd placed team earning only eight.
Liverpool’s first match against Urziceni takes place at Anfield on Febuary 18 and the second in Romania on February 25. February could prove to be a busy month for Liverpool, with the possibility of seven matches in 22 days. The first match is sandwiched between trips to the Emirates and Manchester City.
Feb. 6 – Everton
Feb. 10 – at Arsenal
Feb. 13 – FA Cup Fifth Round Proper (if Liverpool qualify in the third round on Jan. 2 and the fourth round on Jan 23)
Feb. 18 – Unirea Urzinceni
Feb. 21 – at Man City
Feb. 25 – at Unirea Urzinceni
Feb. 27 – Blackburn
After Arsene Wenger’s words regarding the difficulty of traveling to play the smaller clubs in the Europa League, Liverpool supporters will undoubtedly wonder if the travel will take a toll on the team. While it does not appear that there is an airport in the small town of Urzinceni (population approximately 17,000), Bucharest is only about 47 km/30 miles away and should not present a huge burden in travel.
Fernando Torres is almost back to full fitness and appears ready to go on a goal scoring terror. Glenn Johnson and Ryan Babel are reported to be healthy again. Liverpool face Portsmouth tomorrow and Wolves next Saturday.