You may or may not know that Steaua Bucharest still hold the official record for football’s longest unbeaten league sequence.
The Romanians once went 104 games without defeat between August 1986 and September 1989 during an era when they also reached two European Cup finals.
Their achievements were slightly tarnished by being associated with Nicolae Ceaucescu’s blood-thirsty regime and to say they were given a helping hand on their way is a bit of an understatement.
Romania’s best players were given the choice of either playing for Steaua or doing military service, while referees and opposing players were regularly made offers they literally couldn’t refuse.
Things seem to have calmed down a bit now and even though they are some way off their standing from the ’80s, this Steaua outfit are a tidy side.
They surprised many by knocking Ajax out in the last round of the Europa League – the same Ajax who megabucks Manchester City couldn’t beat over two games earlier on in the season – and Steaua have won 15 of their last 16 games at home.
All of which wouldn’t fill me with confidence if I were Rafa Benitez. Chelsea visit the Romanian capital just three days ahead of a trip to Old Trafford in the FA Cup and I, for one, can see something of a humbling on the cards here.
I watched Chelsea’s Europa League opener at Sparta Prague and they were abysmal. They plodded through the motions like they were being strong-armed round the garden centre with the wife, and over the two legs, the European champions were lucky to make it past limited Czech opposition.
If the Blues show the same lack of enthusiasm tonight, then I can see Steaua taking an advantage to Stamford Bridge and given the antipathy there towards Benitez, any lead could prove decisive.
Upon looking at the prices in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, I’m immediately tempted to have a dabble on the Steaua win outright at 3/1, with Chelsea at 9/10 and the draw 12/5.
The price on the Blues is reasonably inviting but I just do not fancy them tonight at all.
I reckon they’ll have more than half an eye on Sunday’s clash with Manchester United and quite what Benitez will do with the side is anybody’s guess.
The best they’ll get is a 1-1 draw at 11-2 or possibly a 2-1 win at 15/2, and if you do reckon Chelsea will nick it, then the half-time draw followed by an away win is a tidy 4/1.
I’m absolutely certain this will be all square at the break at 11/10 and four of Chelsea’s last six have been 0-0 at the interval and that’s a very tempting 7/4.
But I reckon Steaua can claim it from there so the half-time draw/Steaua win at 29/4 is really floating my boat, as is Steaua to win with under 3.5 goals at 15/4.
Punters registering with bwin today can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on Steaua to win after a drawn first half would return an impressive £165 if successful.
If Laurentiu Reghecampf’s side do get something here then they can make it through over the whole tie and if you’re backing the Romanians, jump on them now to advance through to the quarters at 77/20.
However, if you are still undecided as to which way this will go, then there’s a few punts you can have which cover all bases.
There won’t be many goals in it so you can have any side to win by exactly one goal at 13/10 and I’ve spied a bargain in Chelsea to have over 3.5 corners in the second half – when they are likely to be pressing most – at 29/20.
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