Celtic and CFR Cluj cross swords again less than two months after their dramatic UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie.
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Celtic and CFR Cluj cross swords again less than two months after a dramatic UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie, which the Romanian champions won thanks to a momentous 4-3 second-leg win in Glasgow. They re-visit Celtic Park on top of UEFA Europa League Group E having won their opening game, while their hosts have one point to their name.
• Both clubs conceded the first goal to their opponents on matchday one, CFR coming from behind to defeat competition stalwarts Lazio 2-1 at home with goals from Ciprian Deac and Billel Omrani while Celtic equalised at Rennes through a Ryan Christie penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw.
• The clubs met for the first time in early August this year, a 1-1 draw in Romania preceding an epic contest in Glasgow that saw CFR twice come from behind before clinching the tie in added time with a breakaway George Ţucudean goal and progressing to the UEFA Champions League play-offs at their hosts' expense.
• That was CFR's first meeting with Scottish opposition in UEFA competition, whereas Celtic had been paired with Romanian clubs twice previously, winning both home legs 2-1, the most recent against Astra in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Celtic won the domestic treble of Premiership, Scottish Cup and League Cup for an unprecedented third successive season in 2018/19 but in Europe they missed out on the UEFA Champions League group stage and lost five matches in the UEFA Europa League, including both round of 16 encounters against Valencia (0-2 h, 0-1 a).
• This term Celtic again failed to negotiate the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, losing to CFR, but a comprehensive play-off win over Swedish champions AIK (2-0 h, 4-1 a) enabled them to reach the UEFA Europa League group stage for the sixth time. Two of their previous five participations at this juncture have been successful, including last season, but they have yet to progress beyond the round of 32.
• Celtic have lost as many matches as they have won at home in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final (W7 D4 L7), falling to defeat in the last two – against Salzburg (1-2) and Valencia. They have won three of their four European home games this season.
• CFR claimed their fifth Romanian league title – and second in succession – in 2018/19, all those triumphs having come since 2008. In Europe, they lost to Malmö in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League (0-1 h, 1-1 a) and got no further than the UEFA Europa League play-offs, where they were beaten twice (0-2 a, 2-3 h) by Dudelange of Luxembourg.
• A 1-0 loss at Astana kicked off this season's UEFA Champions League campaign, but CFR turned that tie around with a 3-1 home success and went on to beat Maccabi Tel-Aviv (1-0 h, 2-2 a) before memorably knocking out Celtic. Slavia Praha proved too strong, however, in the play-offs, winning both games 1-0 to send CFR into their second UEFA Europa League group stage; the first, in 2009/10, ended with just one win and five defeats.
• CFR have lost all four of their previous away fixtures in the UEFA Europa League proper without scoring a goal. The win at Celtic is the only one in their last five matches outside Romania (D1 L3).
Links and trivia
• CFR coach Dan Petrescu is seeking a third win as a coach in Glasgow, having also led Unirea Urziceni to a 4-1 win against Rangers at Ibrox in a 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group encounter. Marius Bilaşco, who scored Unirea's first goal that night, is now CFR's head of scouting.
• Ţucudean had a trial at Celtic as a 15-year-old and trained with the first team.
• Celtic have drawn three of their previous four home games on matchday two of the UEFA Europa League, the exception a 1-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb in 2014/15.
• Having just left Hibernian, former Northern Ireland international Neil Lennon returned for a second spell as Celtic manager in February 2019 following Brendan Rodgers' mid-season move to Leicester City, and duly sealed the club's 'treble treble' of domestic trophies. He had previously served the Glasgow club as player (2000–07) and manager (2010–14), capturing 16 trophies during those spells, though it was at Leicester, where he won two League Cups under his compatriot Martin O'Neill, that he first made his mark as an industrious and effective midfield anchorman.
• The sixth most-capped Romanian international of all time, with 95 appearances, Petrescu played in four successive major tournaments from 1994 to 2000. The attacking right-back also carved out a successful career at club level, notably with Steaua Bucureşti and in England at Chelsea, with whom he spent five years and won three major trophies. He has had a diverse coaching career, the highlight a surprise Romanian title triumph with Unirea Urziceni in 2008/09 – a feat he repeated with CFR Cluj in 2017/18 and again the following season after returning from China in March 2019.