Chelsea face a testing away trip to Romania on Tuesday when they take on Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League with Jose Mourinho having already admitted that defeat could be costly in their attempts to qualify from Group E.
The 2011-12 European champions have left themselves with work to do after letting a one-goal lead slip away to Basle, as the Swiss champions departed Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago with all three points after two second-half goals.
Blues’ manager Jose Mourinho has already accepted that his side face an early exit from the competition if they lose in Bucharest, and he will take no comfort from the fact that Chelsea have already lost in the same stadium earlier this year.
The then-reigning Champions League holders suffered a 1-0 defeat at the National Arena when they met Steaua in the last-16 round of the Europa League, having already been knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages.
Chelsea, under the guidance of Rafael Benitez, did manage to overturn the deficit with a 3-1 win in London, and they went on to lift the Europa League when they beat Benfica 2-1 in Amsterdam.
But on that day in Bucharest, Raul Rusescu – now of Sevilla – converted a first-half penalty to condemn their high-profile opponents to defeat. That Steaua side also contained defender Vlad Chiriches, who has recently joined Chelsea’s London rivals Tottenham, with the two sides coincidentally meeting each other in the Premier League on Saturday, ending in a 1-1 draw.
Steaua are also looking for their first points of the campaign after they lost 3-0 in a comprehensive defeat to Bundesliga side Schalke. They qualified for the group stages after a 2-2 draw at Legia Warsaw was enough to see them through on away goals, having earned a 1-1 draw in Romania. They also saw off Dinamo Tibilisi and Skopje in the qualifying stages.
That defeat to the Germans has proven to be their only loss this season, with an unbeaten league run stretching over seven matches seeing them rise to the top of the Romanian Liga 1 table once again.
Overall, they have lost just once in their opening 16 matches, although Chelsea will pose a much tougher threat to them. If they are to triumph though, they will look towards their top-scoring striker Federico Piovaccari, who has scored four league goals this season as well as three goals in this competition so far.