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Steaua pray for home comfort

Published: Tuesday 26 September 2006, 1.04CET
FC Steaua Bucuresti make a long-awaited return to their home stadium but the visit of "favourites" Olympique Lyonnais could make it a difficult evening.
by Paul-Daniel Zaharia
from Bucharest

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Published: Tuesday 26 September 2006, 1.04CET

Steaua pray for home comfort

FC Steaua Bucuresti make a long-awaited return to their home stadium but the visit of "favourites" Olympique Lyonnais could make it a difficult evening.

FC Steaua Bucuresti coach Cosmin Olaroiu lavished praise on Olympique Lyonnais on the eve of their UEFA Champions League encounter in Romania, but with his team set to play at their revamped Steaua stadium for the first time in nine months, he insists "our aim is to win".

Key match
Steaua attracted admiring glances with an emphatic 4-1 victory at FC Dynamo Kyiv on Matchday 1 but it is Lyon, 2-0 victors at home to Real Madrid CF in their opener, who Olaroiu believes hold the key to Group E. "We're approaching the most important match we will play in this section," he said. "Lyon are group favourites. They are very organised and the fact they've won five French titles in a row speaks volumes. They have a fantastic balance between individual talent and team organisation."

Lyon affection
Fred and Tiago were on target as Lyon eased past Madrid a fortnight ago, one of seven wins in eight matches for Gérard Houllier's team this term, with eight different players notching goals. "Every Lyon player is capable of causing us problems," Olaroiu continued. "To be honest, I followed them in last season's Champions League and was unhappy when they lost in the last minute in the quarter-finals. But every side has their weaknesses. There's no such thing as a perfect team."

Ghencea return
Olaroiu's men will appear at their Steaua (or Ghencea) home for the first time since being exiled to the Lia Manoliu national stadium while refurbishments were made. Hopes of marking their homecoming with a victory against Lyon have been hampered by long-term injuries to Mirel Radoi and Victoras Iacob while Vasilica Cristocea and Sorin Paraschiv face fitness tests, but Olaroiu is optimistic, saying: "We are well prepared and I'm sure we can compensate for the gulf in class with 100 per cent commitment. We have a chance. We will play to win."

'Positive attitude'
It is a sentiment echoed by Lyon counterpart Houllier. "We are here to win," he said. "We always have a positive attitude, an attacking one. The idea is to control the match and to pose a threat all the time." A number of the older Steaua players will be familiar with this mentality having faced Houllier's Liverpool FC in the second round of the 2003/04 UEFA Cup. Liverpool prevailed 2-1 on aggregate but were held in Bucharest, although the coach is keen to deflect comparisons. "Steaua have changed a lot since then," he said.

No pushovers
"I was very impressed by their win in Kiev and it wasn't a lucky win. It was the victory of a team with a cohesive squad of players and few weaknesses." Lyon will be without the injured Claudio Caçapa though the defender would no doubt back team-mate Florent Malouda's assessment that: "It doesn't matter what names the teams have or their records, nor how many trophies they've won. Progress is achieved on the pitch. We have come here to win but it won't be easy."

Probable teams
Steaua: Carlos Alberto Fernandes; Petre Marin, Dorin Goian, Sorin Ghionea, Mihai Nesu; Banel Nicolita, Sorin Paraschiv, Florin Lovin, Gabriel Bostina; Nicolae Dica, Valentin Badea.

Lyon: Grégory Coupet; Anthony Réveillère, Cris, Patrick Müller, Eric Abidal; Jérémy Toulalan, Tiago, Juninho Pernambucano; Florent Malouda, Fred, Sidney Govou.

Last updated: 27/09/06 1.13CET