Liverpool travel to Romania for the first time since the 2003/04 UEFA Cup 2nd Round when they beat Steaua Bucharest 2-1 on aggregate. A 1-0 Anfield victory and a 1-1 draw in this stadium ensured Liverpool progressed.
Liverpool also played Romanian opposition in the first round of the UEFA Cup campaign in 2000/01 – a year you may remember Liverpool went on to win this European trophy for a joint record 3rd time.
The reds will be hoping omens shine favourably again – 9 years ago the reds progressed with a 1-0 aggregate victory over Rapid Bucharest.
The reds take a 1-0 lead over to Unirea (who are playing at Steaua Bucharest’s stadium due to UEFA ground regulations).
Statto’s will be interested to know that the previous time we met Romanian opposition before that, in 1984, we also went on to pick up the trophy – in that case it was against Dinamo Bucharest and the trophy was the European Cup. The Anfield scoreline that night? 1-0.
David N’gog scores the winner at Anfield
Liverpool met the current Romanian Champions for the first time last Thursday at Anfield. In similarities to the match 26 years ago the reds won the game 1-0 through a header. Step aside Sammy Lee and this time round David N’gog takes the goal plaudits. The reds found it difficult to break down an extremely negative Romanian side, who almost managed to get away with a draw.
But Liverpool are firmly in the driving seat – especially with the bonus of the clean sheet.
A Liverpool goal in the Steaua stadium would see the Romanian side needing to score 3 times.
Injuries and Suspensions
Liverpool’s injury crisis is slowly easing, praise the Lord. Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun are both expected to be in the squad, although it is likely that Torres will again start on the bench. The reds face Blackburn at home at the weekend.
Glen Johnson is still out injured.
Maxi Rodriguez is ineligible for selection. He is cup tied from earlier European exploits with Atletico Madrid.
If Liverpool’s European form was sparkling they would still be in the Champions League. Nonetheless last week’s victory should have helped matters for tonight’s game. In the League the reds have vastly improved since the turn of the year. Losing once in 9 matches and turning the leaking defence that conceded 25 in 18 games back in to a fortress. The reds have conceded just twice in the last 9 league games.
Unirea made their return from their winter break against Liverpool last week. They were then defeated by Cluj, Romanian title rivals, at the weekend. Liverpool drew away from home with Manchester City.
Liverpool –(from) Pepe Reina, Diego Cavalieri, Daniel Agger, Fabio Aurelio, Emiliano Insua, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel, Alberto Aquilani, Steven Gerrard, Yossi Benayoun, Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva, Jay Spearing, Dirk Kuyt, David Ngog, Fernando Torres.
Ryan Babel blew hot when he came on against Unirea last midweek, before blowing cold when handed a start against Man City. He and Benayoun will battle it out for left midfield. Kyrgiakos is still suspended from the Premier League but can play tonight. He sat on the bench in the first leg.
Possible starting XI – Reina, Insua, Agger, Skrtel, Carragher, Benayoun, Mascherano, Leiva, Gerrard, Kuyt, Ngog
Unirea Urziceni: Last week: Giedrius Arlauskis, George Galamaz, Bruno Fernandes, Vasile Maftei, Ion Sorin Paraschiv (Ricardo Vilana Gomes, 86), Razvan Paduretu (Raul Rusescu, 90), Pablo Daniel Brandan, Sorin Frunza, Iulian Apostol, Marius Bilasco, Marius Onofras (Laurentiu Marinescu, 75)
Unirea need to score. But I don’t think they will come out of the starting blocks at Liverpool. I’d imagine their game plan will be similar to the first leg – keep all 11 men behind the ball and hope to nick a goal.
If Liverpool score first then Unirea will have a real job to do and it’s possible Liverpool could grab a couple more. On the other hand if Unirea do score first then the game could really open up at either end.
Unirea 1-3 Liverpool
Liverpool are 8/11 to progress. Unirea are 4/1 to go in to the last 16. If you think the match will head in to extra time you can get 3/1.
TV and Online
The match will be broadcast on ESPN in the UK. Further information is available in the forum