Chelsea’s hectic schedule shows no sign of abating with Sunday’s FA Cup draw with Manchester United leading to a replay to further clog up the Blues' packed fixture list.
There can be little doubt that qualifying for the Champions League remains Chelsea’s priority this season, but manager Rafael Benitez has said that he remains keen to keep their Europa League run going and that means overturning a 1-0 deficit against Steaua Bucharest when the sides meet for the second leg of their Europa League last-16 tie at Stamford Bridge.
“We are in the Europa League and will try to do our best,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official Web site. “If you progress it is a good competition but you have to carry on until the end.
“The scouts told us to be careful, it's a good team and we knew it would be tough. We will see if we can do our game at Stamford Bridge, see if they can cope with the intensity, but we have a lot of respect because it's a very good team.”
Steaua claimed victory in Bucharest last week courtesy of a penalty from leading scorer Raul Rusescu and the Romanian side will be desperate to complete a memorable victory over the European champions on Thursday.
Chelsea will again be hoping that Fernando Torres can emerge from his scoring drought, with Demba Ba cup tied. Benitez is likely to make further changes from the team that turned out at Old Trafford, with John Terry, John Mikel Obi, Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic also potentially set to come into the side.
Steaua were able to rest many of their key men in their 4-3 win over Ceahlaul Piatra-Neamt at the weekend.
D: Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole
M: Mikel, Lampard
Mata, Oscar, Hazard
Steaua Bucharest (probable)
D: Rapa, Szukala, Chiriches, Latovlevici
M: Bourceanu, Pintilii
Popa, Chipciu, Tanase
Prediction: If Chelsea are as lackluster as they were in the first leg then Steaua could well hold out for a famous win. But Chelsea produced some of their best soccer in some time in a stirring second-half comeback against Manchester United. If they can play close to that level then they should have far too much for Steaua.
With the confidence from that fight back, Chelsea should be good enough to get a result they need to progress.
Chelsea 2-0 Steaua Bucharest
Where to watch: The second leg of the Europa League last-16 tie will kick-off from Stamford Bridge at 4.05 p.m. eastern time. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.