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Steaua set sights on Arsenal

FC Steaua Bucureşti welcome Arsenal FC having never lost a home game to English opposition in European competition.

FC Steaua Bucureşti have faced five teams from England since 1997 and now on Matchday 2 that number swells to six with a first-ever visit to the Romanian capital by Arsenal FC. Previous results recorded away to Steaua by their Premier League rivals suggest it could be a difficult night for Arsène Wenger’s side.

• The Romanian side opened their 2007/08 UEFA Champions League campaign with a 2-1 loss away to SK Slavia Praha while Arsenal enjoyed a comprehensive 3-0 home win against Sevilla FC.

• All the earlier meetings between Steaua and teams from England took place in the UEFA Cup; this is the first UEFA Champions League tie featuring Steaua and an English club. The sequence began in the 1997/98 UEFA Cup when Aston Villa FC lost 2-1 in Bucharest. Two years later in the UEFA Cup second round West Ham United FC went the same way 2-0 and in the first round of the 2003/04 competition Southampton FC lost 1-0 in the Steaua Stadium.

• In the next round Steaua received another English opponent in the shape of Liverpool FC who managed to avoid defeat, the 1-1 draw providing the impetus for the Merseyside club to gain a 2-1 aggregate victory. Normal service was resumed in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup semi-finals when Steaua won 1-0 in the home leg of their semi-final with Middlesbrough FC though the Teeside club won a dramatic return 4-2 to take their place in the final against Sevilla.

• It was the Spanish side – who are also in Group H – who locked horns with Steaua last season when, after their fourth participation in the UEFA Champions League had again failed to see them qualify for the knockout stages, the Romanians went into the UEFA Cup. They lost 3-0 on aggregate in the Round of 32 and Sevilla went on to retain the trophy.

• Steaua, the only Romanian club to have triumphed in Europe, will be looking to improve on their previous performances in the UEFA Champions League. Before the start of this season they had only amassed four wins in 24 group matches and only two of those had come at home, against British opponents in the shape of Rangers FC in 1995/96 and against RTS Widzew Lódz 12 months later.

• Last season they gave themselves a real boost with a 4-1 away win over FC Dynamo Kyiv on Matchday 1 but it was to prove their only victory with three-goal defeats at home to Real Madrid CF and Olympique Lyonnais damaging any hopes they had of advancing to the next stage.

• There is a link between these opponents in that both faced FC Barcelona in their one and only appearance in the final of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup. But whereas Steaua climbed onto the victors’ rostrum in 1985/86 in, coincidentally, Seville following a penalty shoot-out, Arsenal were unable to withstand the Catalan club’s storming fightback exactly 20 years later in Paris and succumbed 2-1.

• It is Arsenal’s tenth successive campaign in Europe’s most prestigious club competition and in the past seven seasons Arsène Wenger’s team have never failed to get out of the first group stage. In fact, in the last five they have always qualified as group winners and a positive result in the Romanian capital will encourage belief that they can maintain that impressive record.

• Last season’s results away from the Arsenal Stadium were disappointing by the London club’s standards, winning only one match, at Hamburger SV on Matchday 1. They lost in Russia against PFC CSKA Moskva and drew in Portugal with FC Porto 0-0. Then, following a 1-0 defeat away to PSV Eindhoven in the first knockout round, they were unable to retrieve the deficit at home and bowed out of the competition.

• Before the Moscow fixture they had gone unbeaten in seven away games in the competition proper, form that had proved invaluable in their surge to the 2006 final.

• In the other game in Group H Sevilla are at home to Slavia.