AEK begin Europa League quest in Romania
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - 3rd QUALIFYING ROUND (LEG 1)
AGONAsport previews the first leg of the 2019/2020 UEFA Europa League third qualifying round tie between Universitatea Craiova and AEK.
AEK are on a mission to make up for the dismal 2018/2019 UEFA Champions League campaign. This year, the Kitrinomavri have to be content with a place in the Europa League, but they are focused on atoning for their six consecutive defeats in the Champions League group stage last year. AEK have to pass through two qualifying rounds in order to qualify for the group phase.
The journey starts in Romania. And, while on paper AEK should have enough quality to dispose of Universitatea Craiova, the Athenians will be given a tougher test than many expect.
Universitatea Craiova displayed their potential in the second qualifying round against Budapest Honved. In the second leg at home, Craiova completely dominated proceedings, registering a huge 26 shots on goal compared to Honved’s two. Incredibly, despite 10 of those attempts being on target and Honved not even testing the Craiova goalkeeper once, the hosts failed to score and had to wait until the penalty shootout to eventually put their Hungarian opponents to bed:
Unfortunately, the major talking point concerning the Craiova - Honved match didn’t have anything to do with the football itself. In extra time, the explosion of a flare injured Northern Irish referee Arnold Hunter, who was consequently replaced by the fourth official. However, the game wasn’t permanently abandoned, as the Romanian police were unable to guarantee the safety of the Honved players and match officials. Craiova’s victory was allowed to stand as “the incident did not affect the result of the match.”
You can assess the chaos for yourselves with the help of this following video:
UEFA punished Universitatea Craiova with a three-match stadium ban, meaning this game in Romania will take place behind closed doors. The second leg in Athens will also be played inside an empty arena after AEK were punished for fan trouble against Ajax in the previous season.
AEK’s last European victory was tallied against MOL Vidi FC in the Champions League qualification playoffs in August 2018. The Enosis have since embarked on a seven-match winless streak in Europe.
In the first qualifying round of the Europa League, Craiova defeated Sabail of Azerbaijan in a goal-filled tie, prevailing 6:4 on aggregate across the two legs. The Romanians’ best European achievement is reaching the semi-finals of the 1982/1983 UEFA Cup.
Unlike the Super League in Greece, the Romanian Liga 1 has already started, with Craiova sitting in third place with nine points from four matches. On Sunday, Craiova conceded their maiden defeat of the 2019/2020 season, as FC Hermannstadt claimed a 2:1 victory:
The winners of this tie will face either Sparta Prague or Trabzonspor in the playoffs.
TEAM NEWS: UNIVERSITATEA CRAIOVA
Taking into account that this match is at their home ground, Universitatea Craiova are likely to adapt an attacking approach against AEK, however they will be wary of the importance of not conceding an away goal. Right-back Ivan Martic was injured in the second leg against Honved and subsequently missed the Liga 1 match at the weekend.
Possible line-up: Pigliacelli, Bancu, Acka, Kelic, Vladoiu, Mateiu, Ivanov, Cicaldau, Vatajelu, Barbut, Roman.
TEAM NEWS: AEK
Initially, Serbian midfielder Nenad Krsticic wasn’t registered for the two matches against Craiova, but he has been taken to Romania. Fellow midfielder Konstantinos Galanopoulos is suspended after he received a red card against Benfica in the 2018/2019 Champions League.
Milos Deletic has been left in Athens, while Ukrainian centre-back Dmytro Chygrynskiy is out with injury. Viktor Klonaridis has been in promising form during the pre-season.
Possible line-up: Barkas, Hult, Vranjes, Oikonomou, Paulinho, Simoes, Simao, Mantalos, Geraldes, Klonaridis, Livaja.
REFEREE: DENNIS HIGLER (NED)
Dutch referee Higler, 33, will take charge of the match at the Ion Oblemenco Stadium. In the 2018/2019 season, Higler worked over four Europa League games, and he also refereed a Saudi Professional League fixture between Al Qadisiyah and Al Ahli.
Referee: Dennis Higler (NED)
Assistant referees: Johan Balder (NED), Joost van Zuilen (NED)
Fourth official: Allard Lindhout (NED)
WHERE TO WATCH
Watch the match live on Go Greek TV!