Bucharest is gearing up for the biggest football match so far this season in Romania. Local team Steaua Bucuresti play English Premier League superstars Chelsea in the first leg of the Europa League last 16 tie.
Steaua clearly start as underdogs and with two legs to play, it would be a real coup for the Bucharest squad to overturn last year’s Champions League winners Chelsea. However, “Football is unpredictable and anything is possible,” said Steaua goalkeeper Ciprian Tătăruşanu, whose key saves have played a big part in keeping Steaua in the competition.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have a “hunger” to win the Europa League, said defender David Luiz. It has not been a great season for Chelsea, after winning the Champions League last year, they were knocked out in the group stage this time round. In the English Premier League, they are well out of the running for the title and the chances of silverware are diminishing all the time. New interim manager Rafael Benitez has had a tough time with the fans. After a frosty reception, matters got worse for the manager after some big games were lost. But Chelsea are still without a doubt a world class team, and with few other possibilities for glory this year, they will surely put heart and soul into the Europa League tie. “We will put a very competitive team out,” said Rafa Benitez.
Local reports say that Chelsea fans have bought 620 tickets for tonight’s game, plus some VIP tickets. British police will reportedly be in Bucharest to keep an eye on some known troublemakers coming to the game and local police are “on alert.” Bucharest police will also be monitoring the English football fans this afternoon in the Old Town. Bars and restaurants in the area are expecting a bumper day for business and the BBC predicts that the Chelsea fans could spend EUR 200,000 – EUR 300,000.
The attendance at tonight’s game is expected to set a new record and reach 55,000. The previous record attendance was 53,329, set at a Romania vs The Netherlands match.
The match starts at 20:00 local time at the National Arena in Bucharest. Local television channel PRO TV will provide live coverage and the match will also be shown online at Voyo.ro.