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Villarreal’s next opponents, Steaua Bucharest

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Thirty years ago, Steaua Bucharest won the European Cup over Barcelona. Those days are gone--transfermarkt puts the value of the players in the ENTIRE Romanian first division at about 80% of Villarreal's roster. On paper, this is a rather weak team, but a trip to their stadium can be full of incident.

Steaua Bucharest...

A few quick facts

(1) They were founded in 1947 as an Army team, and in 2014 the Romanian Army successfully sued them, claiming the Army, not the soccer team, was the owner of the club badge....so, Steaua had to come up with a new one.

(2) Steaua were victims of one of the more amusing pranks in recent soccer, when fans of their big rival Dinamo Bucharest engineered a tifo in favor of their club before Steaua took on Manchester City in a Champions League playoff. The Daily Mail reported on it here.

(3) Their owner, George Bacali, is not popular with Steaua fans. The fans themselves have amassed an impressive number of citations for racial chants and banners, fighting, and flares in recent years, with UEFA and the Romanian league fining them and ordering them to play matches behind closed doors. Wonderful.

(4) Steaua won the 1986 European Cup final, defeating Barcelona on penalties in Sevilla. (In those days, only national champions entered, of course, so it took only four rounds of two matches each to get to the final). They also got to the final in 1989, but lost to Milan.

Fast forward to today....

(1) Steaua finished second in last year’s Romanian league so came in to the Champions League playoffs in the 3rd qualifying round. They defeated Sparta Prague 3-1 on aggregate, which might be a useful barometer since we played Sparta last season.

They then were drawn against Manchester City; they lost 5-0 at home and 1-0 away.

(2) They are coached by Laurentiu Reghecampf, who used to play for Steaua. He likes to play a 4-2-3-1, so that should be something Villarreal is used to seeing.

(3) Their danger players seem to be two Brazilians, Fernando Boldrin (midfielder), William (left winger), and Romanian Adrian Popa, a right winger. They will be without a starting defender, Enache, who was sent off in their loss against Osmanlispor in their first EL match.

(4) The main player responsible for their success, Nicolae Stanciu, was sold to Andelecht in August.

On paper, Steaua looks to be the weakest of the four teams in their group, especially when you consider the weakness of the Romanian league these days...three Romanian clubs were barred from participating in Europe as a result of bankruptcy or financial instability. Still, Bucharest can be a difficult place to play, and this will be their first home match in the EL. Villarreal should win this, but it may not be as straightforward as we’d like.