AFC Ajax meet FC Steaua Bucureşti for the first time, looking to improve on their recent European home record as they appear in the round of 32 for the fifth conecutive season.
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Two former European champions meet for the first time in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, with AFC Ajax looking to shore up shaky home form for the visit of FC Steaua Bucureşti.
• The sides are meeting for the first time in UEFA club competition.
• Ajax's only prior experience of Romanian opposition came in the 2009/10 UEFA Cup group stage, where they drew 0-0 at home and won 2-1 away against FC Timişoara.
• Steaua's 12 games against Dutch clubs have ended W3 D3 L6 (W2 D1 L3 in Bucharest – W1 D2 L3 in the Netherlands).
• Ajax have lost four of their last five European home games, with their only success in that spell a 3-1 win against Manchester City FC in this season's UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Steaua are unbeaten in five European away games this season – three wins and two draws – but have been beaten twice in Bucharest.
• Steaua have lost their last five games in the round of 32 without scoring, three of those matches against Dutch opposition.
• Ajax finished third in UEFA Champions League Group D in the autumn. They are appearing in the round of 32 for the fifth season in succession: they have progressed and been eliminated in alternate years since making it through to the round of 16 in 2008/09. If that pattern continues, they will go through this time.
• Winners of UEFA Europa League Group E, Steaua have made it to the round of 32 for the fifth time since the advent of the UEFA Cup group stage in 2004/05. They got to the round of 16 that season and achieved a tournament best by getting to the 2005/06 semi-finals, but bowed out at this stage in 2006/07 and 2011/12.
• The final is being played at Ajax's home stadium, the Amsterdam ArenA, on 15 May. The last team to play in a UEFA Cup final at their home stadium was Sporting Clube de Portugal, who lost 3-1 to PFC CSKA Moskva. However, the last Dutch side to win the UEFA Cup did so at their own stadium, Feyenoord beating Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in Rotterdam in 2001/02.
• An Ajax side featuring current coach Frank de Boer won their only UEFA Cup in 1991/92, beating Torino FC on away goals.
• The clubs have a former player in common: right-back George Ogăraru left Steaua for Ajax in 2006, and spent four seasons with the Amsterdam club – one of them back on loan with Steaua.
• Ajax coach De Boer won five Dutch titles, that 1992 UEFA Cup and the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League with the club, then captured a Spanish title with Barcelona. Capped 112 times, the defender has won two titles with the Amsterdam club as a coach and – in what may be a good omen – he will celebrate his 43rd birthday on the day of the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League final.
• A right-sided midfielder, Laurenţiu Reghecampf was capped once by Romania and played for Steaua from 1996 to 2000, before finishing his career in Germany with FC Energie Cottbus, Alemannia Aachen and 1. FC Kaiserslautern. Since taking up coaching in 2009, he has had eight jobs; he has been in charge of FC Snagov three times, FC Universitatea Craiova twice and CF Gloria 1922 Bistriţa and FC Concordia Chiajna once each, taking command at Steaua last summer.
Round of 16: Ajax/Steaua v AC Sparta Praha/Chelsea FC
• The first legs will be played on 7 March, with the returns the following Thursday.
• Both Ajax and Steaua have played Sparta in the past.
• Steaua came out on top when they met Sparta in the first round of the 1988/89 European Champion Clubs' Cup, winning 5-1 in Prague before playing out a 2-2 draw in Bucharest. Steaua went on to reach the final, losing out to AC Milan.
• Ajax have taken on Sparta in three previous games. In the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League group stage, the sides drew 1-1 in Prague with Ajax prevailing 2-1 in Amsterdam, while a 2006/07 UEFA Cup group stage meeting ended goalless.