For Manchester City to reach this season’s group stage of the Champions League they must first clear the hurdle of the play-off round and a tie against 1986 European Cup winners Steaua Bucharest.
The Romanians don’t quite have the same impact on European Football as they did 30 years ago but they will still set out to make life difficult for Pep Guardiola and his men.
The main story from Saturday’s win over Sunderland was the fact that Joe Hart was dropped to the bench in favour of Willy Caballero. Hart will travel with the squad but is once again set to have to make do with not featuring.
Also not featuring are summer signings Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan who miss out through pre-existing injuries while Yaya Toure has not made the trip to Romania.
Another trio of players who haven’t made the trip are Striker Wilfried Bony, midfielder Samir Nasri and defender Eliaquim Mangala. The fact that these three have stayed behind would almost point to the end of their Manchester City careers.
After just pipping cross town rivals Manchester United to 4th place last season they certainly won’t want to slip up in a bid to reach the group stages. If they were then it would be the first time since the 2010/11 season in which they have failed to do so.
On Saturday they left it late to beat Sunderland at home and were grateful that Paddy McNair but through his own net with just three minutes to go. They will want to make sure that the game is wrapped up before then as they look to take back a healthy advantage to The Etihad for the 2nd leg.
They may have made hard work of Saturday’s encounter but I can’t see Steaua putting up too much of a fight this evening. An away win for me.