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August 2, 2021

Europa League: Steaua and Liverpool eye last-32 places

FC Steaua Bucuresti will look to make it to the round of 32 for the first time since the 2006/07 UEFA Cup as Liverpool FC come Thursday night to Bucharest in Group K looking for the point that will confirm their UEFA Europa League progress.

Steaua will go through along with Liverpool if the home side win and FC Utrecht draw at home against SSC Napoli. Liverpool will progress if they avoid defeat.

Two second-half goals from David Ngog and another for Lucas saw Liverpool pull away to secure a 4-1 win when the sides met at Anfield for the second time on Matchday 1, this September. Steaua have not lost in three Group K games since their trip to Anfield, picking up a win and two draws. They have also gone four games unbeaten at home in UEFA club competition, though two of those matches ended in draws. Liverpool FC will likely be without talismanic captain Steven Gerrard (photo) for their final UEFA Europa League group stage games after the club confirmed the midfielder had sustained “a significant hamstring injury” while on international duty, according to uefa.com.

The 30-year-old was taken off during the closing exchanges of England’s 2-1 friendly defeat by France at Wembley. A series of tests at Liverpool’s Melwood training base have indicated that Gerrard will be out of action for three to four weeks with a grade two tear to the hamstring. This makes him a probable absentee from the Group K fixtures away to FC Steaua Bucuresti on 2 December and at home to FC Utrecht 13 days later.

Fortunately for Reds manager Roy Hodgson, the Premier League side top the group after four matches – thanks to Gerrard’s late hat-trick against SSC Napoli on Matchday 4 – and need only a point to be certain of reaching the last 32. Marius Lacatus is in his third stint as Steaua coach, having replaced Ilie Dumitrescu on 26 September.

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