"A win is our only option," said FC Steaua Bucureşti coach Laurenţiu Reghecampf as his depleted side welcome an FC Schalke 04 team who could clinch qualification in Romania.
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"A win is our only option," said FC Steaua Bucureşti coach Laurenţiu Reghecampf as his depleted side welcome FC Schalke 04 in their last Group E home game.
A last-gasp FC Basel 1893 equaliser three weeks ago left Steaua without a win in the section while Schalke are looking to bounce back after two 3-0 losses against Chelsea FC with their coach, Jens Keller, eyeing a possible "important step" towards the next stage for his team.
• Schalke, in second, will be through if they take three points and Basel lose to Chelsea. Steaua must win to retain any chance of reaching the round of 16; should Basel get a better result against Chelsea than they manage against Schalke, the Romanian champions will be consigned to fourth place.
Laurenţiu Reghecampf, coach
Obviously it is a very important match for us. Actually, it is our last chance, because if do will not win – and a win is our only option – our chances of qualifying for the knockout stages will be zero. We will face very strong opponents.
We have some squad problems, players who are ruled out, but we have prepared well and the most important thing tomorrow will be to win, even if it wouldn't be a tragedy not to do this, because our main target is to win the championship and the cup. We are going well, since we haven't lost any domestic matches and we are in the Champion League group stage.
The most dangerous thing about Schalke is their attack, with [Kevin-Prince] Boateng, [Julian] Draxler, [Jefferson] Farfán and maybe [Max] Meyer, and that's why we will have to be very, very careful when we lose the ball. It is important to play as we did in [the 1-1 draw at] Basel. Experience so far has taught us to be more cautious and to play in a much more compact manner, because otherwise you get punished.
Saturday: CS Pandurii Târgu Jiu 1-1 Steaua (Pereira 27; Szukała 49)
Tătăruşanu; Georgievski (Chipciu 46), Szukała, Gardoş, Latovlevici; Prepeliţă (Neagu 62), Bourceanu; Popa, Stanciu (Iancu 46), Tănase; Kapetanos.
• Steaua slipped two points behind FC Astra at the Romanian summit, though they have two games in hand.
Midfielder Paul Pîrvulescu is ill while forward Leandro Tatu has had knee injury and Lucian Filip and Mihai Pintilii are long-term absentees. Top scorer Federico Piovaccari is available despite being unable to train or play for the last week due to adductor problems.
Jens Keller, coach
I would not regard this as a decisive match because we still have one game against Basel [to come], but it is a very important one. If we win, we will take an important step towards our goal of playing in the knockout stage.
We are well aware of the strength of our opponents – for them it's the last chance to finish third or, though this is a lot more difficult, second. We are well prepared and we know that we're playing against an aggressive team.
I remember that in Gelsenkirchen it was very hard for us to impose ourselves and it took a long time to get the first goal [it came 67 minutes into an eventual 3-0 win]. We are prepared and I don't think that we've played badly in the recent period in the Bundesliga [where they are unbeaten in three games].
Saturday: Eintracht Frankfurt 3-3 Schalke (Flum 56, Joselu 61 68; Flum og 14, Matip 18, Höwedes 86)
Hildebrand; Uchida, Höwedes, Matip, Kolasinac (Fuchs 70); Jones, Aogo (Szalai 79); Farfán, Meyer, Draxler; Boateng (Felipe Santana 89).
• Benedikt Höwedes struck four minutes from time – his first Bundesliga goal since August 2011 – to earn the Royal Blues a point after they had led 2-0. All three of Schalke's league draws this season have been 3-3.
Ralf Fährmann is expected to start in goal as Timo Hildebrand (hip) has been left in Gelsenkirchen along with Leon Goretzka (ill). Chinedu Obasi, out since April with a tibia problem, is included in a squad that also includes prospect Kaan Ayhan. Keller faces a nervous wait on the availability of another youngster, Draxler, as the midfielder is suffering with flu
• Steaua's 17 fixtures against German sides have ended W1 D6 L10; at home it is W1 D3 L3. Their lone victory came in the second leg of the 1957/58 European Champion Clubs' Cup first round, when they beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1. They had lost the away leg 4-2 and went down 3-1 in the replay on neutral ground in Bologna.