Sevilla FC coach Juande Ramos is taking nothing for granted on Matchday 3 – except that it will take a high-tempo performance to beat FC Steaua Bucureşti.
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Sevilla FC coach Juande Ramos is taking nothing for granted on Matchday 3 – except that it will take a top class, high-tempo performance to beat FC Steaua Bucureşti.
On face value the double UEFA Cup winners, with five trophies in their cabinet from the last 18 months plus a firm home defeat of SK Slavia Praha in their last Group H game, should be favourites for three points. However, Ramos not only respects Steaua, he knows the UEFA Champions League can throw up surprises such as Olympique de Marseille's 1-0 victory at Liverpool FC three weeks ago.
"Regarding that match in particular, it is a firm reminder to us all that in the Champions League, the level of quality between all the teams is very equal," said Ramos, whose side recovered from a loss at Arsenal FC to overcome Slavia 4-2 on Matchday 2, while Steaua were suffering a second reverse at home to the Gunners. "It was something I already believed: that this competition can produce any result at any time. Nothing should be a surprise. I'll ask my players to pose problems for Bucureşti by imposing a very high tempo, and to try to get a goal or two ahead as early as possible. That was a successful recipe in our last game against Slavia and it is our strongest weapon when we play at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán."
History backs Ramos in that Sevilla's back-to-back UEFA Cup victories stemmed from only one defeat in 14 home matches – and in February the Andalusians dispatched Steaua 2-0 in Bucharest and 1-0 in Spain in the same tournament. Luis Fabiano was not among the scorers then, yet Ramos says he may now be his key striker, with seven goals from his last eight appearances. "Luis is an excellent footballer but he has an unusual mentality," Ramos said. "When he's on form he just oozes confidence, but when he's not he doesn't. He and the team need to make the most of this purple patch that he's in."
Steaua coach Massimo Pedrazzini, whose charges like Sevilla won at the weekend, spoke several hours later than Ramos though was reading from the same script. "Not only do I see this match as a 50-50 contest, we've come here to win and I genuinely believe that the key to our result is whether the players, like me, believe 100 per cent that we are capable of winning," Pedrazzini said. "The so-called inferior team does not always lose and I watched very closely the video of Sevilla playing [RC] Deportivo La Coruña in their penultimate league match, creating ten chances but losing 1-0."
Confidence at Romania's seventh-placed club has not been dented despite the absence through injury of two regular starters in full-back Pawel Golański and defensive midfielder Florin Lovin. Sevilla's stadium, of course, was the setting for Steaua's greatest night – their triumph against FC Barcelona in the 1985/86 European Champion Clubs' Cup final thanks to a 2-0 penalty shoot-out success. "That was a David against Goliath night, and like in the Bible, David won that one," warned Pedrazzini.