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Small-town Romanians face challenging debut

The Romanian club Unirea Urziceni face a daunting welcome to the Champions League tonight with a first group match at Seville.

Unirea are making their debut in Europe's elite competition this season after winning their first Romanian league title in June, just three years after reaching the top flight. Coached by former the Romania and Chelsea defender Dan Petrescu, Unirea has a 17,000 population, making it the smallest town to appear in this season's Champions League. Normally playing at a 7,000-capacity stadium, the team must hold their home games at Steaua Bucharest's larger Ghencea Stadium.

Unirea will meet a Seville team in confident mood for the Group G game at Ramon Sanchez de Pizjuan Stadium. The 2006 and 2007 Uefa Cup winners were among the top seeded teams in last month's draw and gained their first win of the new Spanish League season by crushing Real Zaragoza 4-1 on Saturday.

Striker Luis Fabiano scored twice to follow up his two goals in Brazil's 3-1 win over Argentina in a World Cup qualifier the previous weekend, drawing reported interest from Manchester United and Juventus.

Tonight the Seville coach, Manolo Jimenez, is expected to partner Fabiano with the prolific Frederic Kanouté, who missed Saturday's game through suspension, in an attacking pairing likely to trouble the Romanians. Seville will be without midfielder Ndri Romaric, who has a knee sprain. However, right-back Abdoulay Konko, who also scored against Zaragoza, is expected to play.

Unirea's hopes may lie with midfielder Iulian Apostol, whose energetic displays won him a first international appearance for Romania at the end of last season. In what appears to be a wide open group, Rangers visit Stuttgart in tonight's other match.


Population of Unirea – the smallest town in this year's Champions League.