A preview of Europa league confrontation, pitting CFR Cluj against Finland's KuPS Kuopio
Romania's title holders CFR Cluj on Thursday will prove their mettle in Europa League qualifiers. In the competition's play-offs, CFR play a home, single-leg tie against Finnish opponents KuPS Kuopio. At least in theory, CFR rank as favorites to winning the match. CFR's head coach Dan Petrescu has no problems with his footballers. Petrescu even rested some of his first-team footballers, in CFR's most recent domestic championship game on home turf, when the team from Cluj were held by Chindia Targoviste to a blank draw.
KuPS Kuopio are Finland's defending champion team. They are 2nd placed in the current competition season, yet Kuopio still have two games to play, as compared to the top-of-the-table team, Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi. In the Champions League's first preliminary round, Norway's Molde trounced Kuopio, 5-nil. Then in Europa league's second preliminary round, Kuopio outclassed Slovan Bratislava after the penalty shootouts, while the qualifiers' third round, Kuopio outclassed Lithuanian opponents Suduva, 2-nil.
CFR Cluj are 2nd placed, according to League One's as-it-stands table. CFR are four points down from Universitatea Craiova. In the Champions League's first preliminary round, CFR outclassed Maltese opponents Floriana, 2-nil. However, in the second round, CFR were outclassed by Croatia's champion team Dinamo Zagreb, after the penalty shootouts, on home turf. Then in Europa League's third preliminary round, CFR won the away fixture against Swedish champions Djugarden, 1-nil.
A Croatian crew, with Ivan Bebek at the center, will be refereeing the match pitting CFR against Kuopio. Bebek has been a FIFA referee since 2003. We recall that in the past, the Croat had refereed one of CFR's fixtures in the European Cups, when CFR sustained a nil-1 defeat away from home by Bordeaux on October 22nd, 2008, in the Champions League's group stage.