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January 18, 2022
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Europa League: Steaua, FC Vaslui and Rapid ready for the first clashes

By    Mihai Chiper

Last season’s UEFA Champions League semi-finalists FC Schalke 04 travel will meet tonight in Cluj Napoca Steaua Bucharest in their opening Group J match.

According to uefa.com the sides are meeting for the first time in Europe. Schalke boast Romanian talent in the form of forward Ciprian Marica, who started his career with Steaua’s neighbours FC Dinamo Bucharest. He represented FC Shakhtar Donetsk and VfB Stuttgart before joining Schalke this summer.

Steaua are led by Israeli coach Roni Levy, who won three titles as a coach in his home country with Maccabi Haifa FC and a runners-up medal in Romania with FC Unirea Urziceni in 2009/10. He joined Steaua this summer after a spell back in Israel at Beitar Jerusalem FC.

In another game tonight Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC meet FC Rapid Bucharest for the second time with the visitors, back in Europe after a two-season absence, starting what they hope will be a journey to a final on home soil.

Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC and FC Rapid Bucure?ti meet again in their UEFA Europa League Group C opener, with both sides looking to improve on a draw when they first met back in 2006.

Hapoel have won both of their European home games this season 4-0, and have lost only one of their last 14 matches at Bloomfield Stadium, 3-1 against Olympique Lyonnais in last season’s UEFA Champions League group stage.

Back in Europe after a two-season absence, Rapid had not won in four away games (or scored a goal in three) when they beat WKS Slask Wroclaw in this season’s UEFA Europa League play-offs.

With only one Romanian side having claimed victory in 24 visits to Italy in UEFA club competition, FC Vaslui will be hoping to spring a surprise when they travel to Rome to face S.S. Lazio.

The sides are meeting for the first time in Europe and this is also Vaslui’s first meeting with Italian opponents.

Lazio took on FC Dinamo Bucharest in the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, prevailing 3-1 in Bucharest after a 1-1 draw in Rome.

Ominously for Vaslui, only one Romanian side has won in 24 visits to Italy in UEFA club competition.

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