x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Chelsea take trip into the unknown

Chelsea take a trip into the unknown when they visit the surprise package of this season's Champions League tournament, the Romanian debutants CFR Cluj.

The Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard will be hoping to use all his experience to get the better of the CFR Cluj midfield when they meet on Wednesday.
The Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard will be hoping to use all his experience to get the better of the CFR Cluj midfield when they meet on Wednesday.

BUCHAREST // Chelsea take a trip into the unknown when they visit the surprise package of this season's Champions League tournament, the Romanian debutants CFR Cluj, with both teams looking to extend their winning starts in Group A on Wednesday. While Chelsea's 4-0 win over Bordeaux in their opening match was always likely, Cluj's 2-1 victory over Roma in Rome in their first ever match in the competition proper provided a major upset and alerted the Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to the potential dangers awaiting his side in Romania.

"We will treat them with total respect. Any team that can win 2-1 at Roma will be dangerous in this competition," Scolari said two weeks ago soon after learning of the shock result. Chelsea, last season's beaten finalists, are taking nothing for granted in their first match against Romanian opposition despite Cluj's lack of European experience. They flew to Romania yesterday, more than 48 hours before the game at Cluj's modest Dr Constantin Radulescu Stadium, to prepare for the game but left without injured England midfield star Joe Cole, who missed Saturday's 2-0 win at Stoke City and is still struggling to overcome a muscle tear in his hip area.

Striker Salomon Kalou, however, did travel after shrugging off an ankle injury he picked up against Stoke as Chelsea won to return to the top of the Premier League. Cluj go into the match after drawing 1-1 with Steaua Bucharest in a tough domestic league match on Friday which left Cluj fifth in the table, seven points behind Dinamo Bucharest with nine matches played. "The game showed that we are ready to face Chelsea as we recovered a one-goal deficit and created several good opportunities to score and to win," said the Argentine playmaker Juan Culio, who scored both their goals in Rome which prompted the Romanian Football Association into pushing through the South American's player's attempts for naturalisation.

Cluj's Ivory Coast striker Yssouf Kone said that he had chatted to his compatriot Kalou, while another Ivornian Didier Drogba, should also feature in the game. "He congratulated me for our win against Roma, but he warned us that, if we want to draw or beat Chelsea, we are going to have to play twice as well as we managed against Roma. "I told him I thought Chelsea were four times stronger than Roma so they were favourites, but I feel honoured playing against opponents like Frank Lampard and John Terry. "You have something to learn just from being on the same pitch as them."

CFR Cluj: 44-Eduard Stancioiu; 2-Tony, 20-Cadu, 27-De Sousa, 33-Alvaro Pereira; 7-Sebastian Dubarbier, 31-Dani, 6-Gabriel Muresan, 10-Eugen Trica; 19-Juan Culio, 17-Yssouf Kone Chelsea: 1-Petr Cech; 17-Jose Bosingwa, 33-Alex, 26-John Terry, 3-Ashley Cole; 20-Deco, 13-Michael Ballack, 8-Frank Lampard, 15-Florent Malouda; 11-Didier Drogba, 39-Nicolas Anelka Referee: Florian Meyer (Germany)

*Reuters