Protasov senses opportunity

FC Steaua Bucuresti coach Oleg Protasov is looking to capitalise on the turmoil at Rosenborg BK.

By Paul-Daniel Zaharia & Eivind Aarre

FC Steaua Bucuresti will be looking to capitalise on the uncertainty surrounding Rosenborg BK tonight as they attempt to close in on a berth in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Backroom turmoil
Rosenborg were left without a coach following Sunday's resignation of Per Joar Hansen, and although they were quick to appoint Per-Mathias Høgmo, the new man has had just two days to prepare his charges. Romanian champions Steaua have problems of their own, however, with strikers Nicolae Dica and Laurentiu Dinita both suspended.

Striking suspensions
The pair were both dismissed in the 4-1 win against Shelbourne FC in the second qualifying round but the 1986 European champions can still call upon Victoras Iacob. The 24-year-old has recovered from a slight knock after missing last weekend's narrow win at FC Arges – the opening fixture of the new Romanian First Division season.

Rosenborg malaise
By contrast, the Norwegian domestic season is approaching its final throws and Steaua coach Oleg Protasov was at the Lerkendal stadium on Sunday to see Rosenborg's 2-1 defeat by Lillestrøm SK: a result which left the side seeking their 14th consecutive title 14 points off the pace with just nine games remaining.

Unwelcome surprise
But Protasov sees the turmoil as no advantage for his side's Champions League ambitions. "It's not good for us that they've changed their coach," he said, "The new trainer will inevitably make changes to the side, and they could spring a few surprises."

'Good opportunity'
That does not detract from the fact that Rosenborg have savoured just one win in four games, something the canny Protasov is only too aware of. "Because they have not won for a while, they will obviously have problems with morale," the 41-year-old continued. "They're a good team, but not a very strong one and although they are hugely experienced in the Champions League, we have a good opportunity to qualify."

'Down in the dumps'
Høgmo has avoided the usual coaching protocol of rubbishing claims of unrest, instead confirming his Steaua counterpart's views, while seeing this tie as a platform to move on from. "Rosenborg are down in the dumps now," said Høgmo, who signed a three-year deal on Monday, "but we have a great chance to create something positive. We just need to get the talent at this club to come good on the field.

'Sandwich football'
"I want the team to defend in a way where there are always two or three players surrounding the player on the ball - sandwich football, I call it." Defenders Miika Koppinen and Bjørn Tore Kvarme are both injured and will play no part in any 'sandwich' and although Rosenborg are hungry for a win, it provides yet another lift to an already buoyant Steaua.