Steaua Bucharest will take on FC Twente in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, following last Friday’s draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, with AFC Ajax paired with Manchester United FC and holders FC Porto to play against Manchester City, according to uefa.com.
Reaching the final at the National Arena, Bucharest, on 9 May 2012 is the dream for all 32 sides, and none more so than FC Steaua, who play their home games at that stadium. FC Twente lie in wait for Romania’s last European contenders this season – a side they drew against twice in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League group stage. “We have a significant chance to qualify, even if we are not the favourites, and we will go for it,” captain Alexandru Bourceanu told UEFA.com.
Goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu could only agree, mindful of the task that awaits Ajax and Porto in February. “It could have been much worse,” the custodian told UEFA.com. “What could I have said if we would have been drawn against, say, either of the Manchester teams? Our chances would have been almost zero.”
Holders FC Porto will take on Manchester City. While Porto and City have never played before, Ajax have not met the Red Devils since a 1976/77 UEFA Cup first-round tie, which United won 2-1 on aggregate. Old scores may also be settled when S.S. Lazio take on Club Atletico de Madrid, a side they eliminated in the 1997/98 UEFA Cup semi-finals. In other notable round of 32 ties Stoke City FC take on Valencia CF while Eredivisie leaders AZ Alkmaar will play Belgium’s RSC Anderlecht.
Should Porto overcome City, they could meet Liga rivals Sporting Clube de Portugal in the round of 16, with the Lions up against Legia Warszawa in their round of 32 fixture.
Manchester United FC were the side most were eager to avoid, but Belgian international defender Vertonghen of Ajax can see the positives. “We all saw United winning the Champions League in 1999 and 2008,” the 24-year-old said. “They have had hundreds of tremendous players. They have a great coach, big stars and Old Trafford is a nice stadium. You cannot look beyond that. Of course, we will be out for a good result, but we have to enjoy the opportunity and the atmosphere.”
Unless otherwise stated, first legs will be played on 16 February, with the returns taking place the following Thursday, 23 February.