Whatever the outcome of Tuesday's Group E meeting with Olympique Lyonnais, it promises to be a night to remember for FC Steaua Bucuresti. Not only are the Romanian side hosting a UEFA Champions League group stage game for the first time in ten years, they are doing so at their revamped Ghencea stadium to which they return after a nine-month exile at the Lia Manoliu national stadium.
The 25,000-capacity ground is renowned in Romania for the atmosphere created by Steaua's passionate supporters and forward Valentin Badea has warned Lyon that the excitement of their homecoming could work against the French champions. "We will have an important advantage against Lyon - the fans, who will generate a fantastic atmosphere," he said.
If Lyon are bracing themselves for an outpouring of emotion from the locals - back at the stadium for the first time since a Romanian league match against SC Vaslui on 4 December 2005 - they can at least be confident of greater comfort than previous visitors to the Ghencea enjoyed with the dressing rooms having been completely refurbished. Upgrading the arena involved not just reinforcing the structure of the stands but also laying a brand-new pitch with undersoil heating. Visitors will also find a fresh PA system and a parking area for 1,500 cars.
The big day
To mark the reopening of the Ghencea, Romania's national team will play their first competitive game there in four years with a UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier against Belarus on 7 October, before league football returns to the venue with the visit of CFR Ecomax Cluj-Napoca the following week. Steaua had originally scheduled the inauguration for last Saturday's fixture against AFC Gloria 1922 Bistrita before postponing the big day to Tuesday.
After the morale boost of a 4-1 win at FC Dynamo Kyiv on UEFA Champions League Matchday 1, Steaua supporters will be hoping the switch to familiar surroundings will give the side more impetus and defender Dorin Goian, for one, cannot wait. "The Ghencea is something special," he said. "Nothing can compare with our fans and our stadium."
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