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Steaua have edge for Rapid visit

Published: Thursday 6 April 2006, 9.53CET
A chance to become the first Romanian team to contest a UEFA Cup semi-final in 23 years is at stake when FC Steaua Bucuresti tackle AFC Rapid Bucuresti.
by Paul-Daniel Zaharia
from Bucharest

Tournament statistics

SteauaRapid Bucureşti

Goals scored23
Attempts on target55
Attempts off target59
Fouls committed133
Yellow cards15
Red cards0

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Published: Thursday 6 April 2006, 9.53CET

Steaua have edge for Rapid visit

A chance to become the first Romanian team to contest a UEFA Cup semi-final in 23 years is at stake when FC Steaua Bucuresti tackle AFC Rapid Bucuresti.

With the quarter-final first leg between AFC Rapid Bucuresti and FC Steaua Bucuresti having ended 1-1, the Romanian media have been hyping up Thursday's return as the capital rivals compete to become the country's first UEFA Cup semi-finalist in 23 years.

Huge support
Although the clubs have drawn both their meetings this season, Steaua have the advantage after Banel Nicolita scored an away goal - cancelled out in the second half by Viorel Moldovan - in last week's tie at Rapid. The former European champions will also be backed by almost three times as many fans at their temporary Lia Manoliu stadium than filled Rapid's Giulesti ground for a game billed locally as 'The match of the Millennium'.

Cristea strikes
Gabriel Bostina is eligible to return to the Steaua midfield after suspension, although an ankle injury sustained in training last week kept him out of Sunday's 3-0 win at FC Otelul Galati, Andrei Cristea (2) and Mirel Radoi scoring for a side also bereft of several rested players. Cristea, for whom the goals were his first of the season, said of the Rapid encounter: "This is our biggest match of the campaign and we'll have to give it our best to qualify."

'Even match'
Rapid were also victorious on their travels at the weekend, defeating FCU Politehnica Timisoara 3-1 to climb to fourth, six points behind Steaua who are level on points with leaders FC Dinamo Bucuresti. Rapid coach Razvan Lucescu omitted Emanoil Badoi, Daniel Niculae and Emil Dica with the European night in mind, but saw his team fight back to win with goals from Mugurel Buga (2) and Lucian Burdujan. "The players showed their strength after a bad start," Lucescu said. "We tend to play well away from home and almost always score, so I expect an even game against Steaua."

Face mask
The victory came at a cost, however, as Danut Perja broke his nose and will only be able to play against Steaua if he wears a mask following surgery, while Valentin Negru suffered a head injury which threatens his involvement. Nonetheless, midfielder Nicolae Grigore remains optimistic, saying: "Steaua are by no means the best team we have faced in the UEFA Cup this season. Hamburger [SV], Hertha [BSC] Berlin and Feyenoord are all better."

Confident Rada
Defender Ionut Rada was even more forthright: "Obviously it is our aim to eliminate Steaua. I invite every journalist to come to our training ground on Friday and we'll tell them how we achieved this. I am sure Steaua's players are scared of us, they just don't want to admit it." Steaua, it seems, are prepared to let their football do the talking.

Last updated: 06/04/06 19.54CET