x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Cluj find life in group of death

So far, so good, and it could get better still for CFR Cluj's clued-up band of brothers and their great Champions League adventure in southwestern France.

Cluj's Culio, left, battles with Chelsea's Wayne Bridge.
Cluj's Culio, left, battles with Chelsea's Wayne Bridge.

So far, so good, and it could get better still for CFR Cluj's clued-up band of brothers and their great Champions League adventure in southwestern France. With fortitude and an element of good fortune, the smattering of hardy draftsmen who go forth in the name of Romania's champions are in their element in this increasingly warped staging of the group stages.

In the pink and in the points, a once curious club fighting out of Transylvania suddenly have nothing to hide. They appear to be in this lofty competition for the long haul, and Bordeaux, with all its vineyards and wine connotations, will tonight provide them with their latest fruity tasting session. Cluj fell behind on opening night, but two goals from the midfielder Juan Culio earned them an unheralded 2-1 win over AS Roma in Rome. They almost hijacked Chelsea at home.

The visiting goalkeeper Petr Cech made some worthy stops as Cluj held last season's finalists to a 0-0 draw. Such results are no freak of nature. Where all of this is heading is uncertain, but at the moment it sees Cluj lead Group A alongside Chelsea with four points, and perhaps peering at the last 16 on their debut in the competition. Bordeaux have no points after losses to Chelsea and Roma. They cannot afford to lose, and will probably see a draw as an unacceptable outcome.

Residing in the land of Count Dracula, it is hardly surprising that Culio sees his section as the group of death. Cluj are hardly on life support. "Everyone was saying it was the group of death, but we were somehow convinced we could stand up and do great things," said Culio. "Now we have to remain down to earth, and stay calm to get to the next phase." Bordeaux have only met a Romanian side twice over the past 20 years or so, while before this zany season, Cluj had managed only a Uefa InterToto Cup final spot and a Uefa Cup qualifying match.

Bordeaux are from fine wine country, but if they continue to be ripe for the picking in front of their home crowd this evening, they will sample only the grapes of wrath. @Email:dkane@thenational.ae