Who: FC Steaua Bucharest vs. Chelsea FC
What: UEFA Europa League, Third Round (First leg; second leg, March 14)
Where: Arena Națională, Bucharest, Romania
When: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel
Time: 18:00 GMT/1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT
Television: Fox Soccer Channel (USA), ESPN UK / HD (UK)
Radio: SiriusXM Sirius 94 (Internet 94)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Referee: Sergei Karasev (Russia)
3-Way Odds: Steaua Bucharest +240, Chelsea Even, Draw +220
Total: Over 2½ +110, Under 2½ -149
3-Way Odds: Steaua Bucharest +320, Chelsea -115, Draw +240 (LVH Superbook)
Decimal Odds: Steaua Bucharest 3.40, Chelsea 2.00, Draw 3.20
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 2.10, Under 2½ 1.67
Fractional Odds: Steaua Bucharest 12/5, Chelsea 1/1, Draw 11/5
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 11/10, Under 2½ 67/100
Odds To Win Europa League: Chelsea 7/2, Steaua Bucharest 125/1
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Chelsea's tour of Europe continues on Thursday when the Blues travel to Romania to play Steaua Bucharest in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 pairing in the first meeting ever between the two clubs.
Expect Arena Națională to be a snake pit for the European champions with 55,000 noisy attendees rooting on their Roș-Albaștrii against those evil boys in blue from Londontown in this first leg matchup.
Steaua advanced to this third round on a penalty kick win over AFC Ajax, the first-ever Europa League match to earn that distinction, and became only the second team in tournament history to make it to the round of 16 after being down two goals after the first leg
The Liga I Bergenbier club has scored 11 goals, but allowed 11—the most of any side left in this tournament—but expect Steaua goalkeeper Ciprian Tătăruşanu to be in top form in front of the home crowd in a stadium that’s seen its share of upsets by the homeboys in this stage of the Europa League.
On offense, Steaua and coach Laurențiu Reghecampf rely on forwards Mihai Costea
and Raul Rusescu (3 goals in Europa League) and midfielders Mihai Doru Pintilii, Alexandru Chipciu and Cristian Tănase for scoring.
Vlad Chiricheş (2 goals)—who along with goalkeeper Tătăruşanu has played in a tourney-high 750 minutes—Iasmin Latovlevici (2 goals) and Florin Gardoş hold down the defense and are a big part of the reason that Steaua has advanced to this point in the tournament.
Chelsea heads into this road leg playing good football but possibly a little bit preoccupied with Sunday's FA Cup quarterfinal match against Manchester United at Old Trafford (Fox Soccer Channel, 12:00 p.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT) on the horizon.
The Blues can become the first club in UEFA history to win the organization’s top two club competitions—Champions League and Europa League—in consecutive seasons in reverse order should they somehow find a way to win this tournament.
With almost everyone but Oriol Romeu healthy, interim manager Rafael Benítez will be able to start a very solid starting XI even if he decides to rest some of his bigger or older guns for the Red Devils clash.
Expect Petr Čech to be in goal for Chelsea and Branislav Ivanović and Gary Cahill in the back four while it's anyone's guess who will start in the central midfield with Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Ramires, David Luiz and Yossi Benayoun all available.
In the advanced midfield, some mixture of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Victor Moses should try to set the pace in Romania although every once in awhile Ramires is deployed on the attack.
Over the long haul, Steaua is average against teams from England (4-4-6, 4-2-1 at home) but is winless in its last five matches against English clubs. So despite the huge advantage the crowd will provide, the home team will really have its work cut out for them.
An upset is certainly not out of the question here, but taking a chance on the No. 66 club (Steaua) in the UEFA's rankings over the fifth-ranked club (Chelsea) just doesn't make sense, no matter how distracted for this weekend's United game the Blues may be.
And with Chelsea healthy and motivated and the price (even money) more than fair, the lean here is to the visitors in a low-scoring game with shots on goal coming at a premium in the brisk Bucharest weather.
BETS: Chelsea Even, Under 2½ -149
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1 Steaua Bucharest 0
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