CFR 1907 Cluj coach Maurizio Trombetta is hoping that lightning can strike for a second time when his side take on AS Roma needing a repeat of their surprise Matchday 1 success in Italy to ressurect their Group A prospects.
Article top media content
CFR 1907 Cluj's Italian coach Maurizio Trombetta is hoping lightning can strike twice as his side take on AS Roma on Wednesday.
The teams met for the first time on UEFA Champions League Matchday 1 when CFR made a stunning group-stage debut with a 2-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico. Since then the Romanian titleholders have picked up just one point and slumped to the bottom of Group A, while Roma have beaten FC Girondins de Bordeaux and Chelsea FC to move into second place. Trombetta duly recognises that a lot has changed in the two months since CFR's success in Rome.
"I would say that things have settled down," he said. "Roma were struggling to integrate new players back then and had injury problems. Now they are playing well, second in the group. We are in last place, and have had something like 16 matches in the last two months, which has taken its toll." He then smiled. "But I'm looking for a second miracle. We want to beat them again."
Struggling for consistency
Trombetta's charges are certainly struggling to find the kind of consistency that took them to last season's Romanian title. Friday's 2-1 defeat by CS Pandurii Lignitul Târgu Jiu left them sixth in Liga 1 and their cause has not been helped by injury either. Portuguese full-back Tony underwent surgery last week for a problem with the meniscus in his right knee; he will not play again this year. Brazilian striker Didi is likely to be out for six months, also after a knee operation. Meanwhile, Gabriel Mureşan and Juan Culio, the two-goal hero in the Italian capital, are troubled by knocks.
Although anything less than a win could be fatal to CFR's chances, given they go to Chelsea on Matchday 6, Trombetta is reluctant to throw caution to the wind in Cluj-Napoca. "We have to keep things tight at the back, because we know how lethal their strikers can be if they get an opportunity," said the 46-year-old, who will probably keep faith with his trusted 4-5-1 formation, relying on counterattacks led by frontman Yssouf Koné.
Into the groove
After a shaky start to the campaign, Roma are beginning to find their feet again, with their improved European form being echoed by Sunday's comprehensive 3-0 win at US Lecce, on the back of a triumph over city rivals S.S. Lazio the week before. "We have reacted very well since the CFR defeat," said coach Luciano Spalletti. "There has been a big improvement in our play. This is an intelligent group of players. I'm happy with our progress."
While confident of prevailing in Romania, Spalletti also has respect for the opposition. "I know Maurizio Trombetta, he's very capable of coaxing high standards from his teams," said the trainer. "And CFR have plenty of quality – [Sebastián] Dubarbier, [Sixto] Peralta, Koné, Dani ... We'll have to be careful." The Giallorossi have travelled without defenders Christian Panucci, still labouring with a knee injury, and Cicinho, who has a cold. Mirko Vučinić sat out training on Tuesday, also with a virus, and is rated doubtful.