CFR Cluj director cranks up the heat ahead of Celtic clash

By David Walton

July 31, 2019

CFR Cluj director Bogdan Mara has upped the excitement levels ahead of his side’s meeting with Celtic, as he claimed they’re not afraid of the Hoops.

Cluj impressively avoided defeat in Israel against Maccabi Tel-Aviv to book a third qualifying round meeting with Celtic. As Neil Lennon’s side were putting the finishing touches on Nomme Kalju, Cluj held out for a 2-2 draw in Tel-Aviv. Cluj managed to overcome Maccabi 1-0 in Romania last week.

Now, both teams can look ahead to a first-ever when they meet in Romania next week. Cluj and Celtic both have positive reputations thanks to European exploits over the last decade. There’s certainly an air of respect between the two clubs heading into the tie, but they’ve never come up against each other in the past.

CFR Cluj have managed some fine European results over the years (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

But Mara has decided to get the mind-games rolling by telling Celtic that his men aren’t afraid of them. Speaking to popular Romanian outlet DigiSport, Mara said the following:

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“I hope the Celtic tie works out as it did for Unirea Urziceni against Rangers (4-1 at Ibrox when Dan Petrescu was manager). Celtic is a huge club, but we are not afraid of anyone. We have a chance!

“We were a team that knew what it wanted, with impeccable tactics. Dan Petrescu knew how to mobilise the players to get qualification. It was a hellish temperature (in Israel), we were in the gallery of lions. The Israeli supporters created an incredible atmosphere.”

A meeting that will prove so much

Cluj will almost certainly come into this clash with little fear. They’ll look at AEK Athens knocking us out last year as a sign that we can clearly be got at. But, just as valid is the fact they haven’t reached the Champions League groups since 2012. Celtic have a much better pedigree in the competition than Cluj, and thus we have a right to feel confident.

Petrescu claimed to DigiSport that he thinks his side can reach the Champions League groups. Cluj are clearly in confident mood after their 2-2 draw in Israel, and no wonder. Coming out of Tel-Aviv without even a defeat on the night shows they have something about them.

Bogdan Mara played for Cluj for a year (Daniel Mihailescu/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

There appears to be slight concerns over striker George Tucudean too. Mara told DigiSport that he hoped he would be 100% fit for the Hoops. He stated that it’s important to their chances of qualification too. That could be worth keeping an eye on in the coming days.

Cluj will be in action this Saturday just like Celtic. The Romanians travel to Chindia Targoviste in the Romanian League. But they could come into the Hoops clash in some real good form. They may have lost the Romanian Supercup to Viitorul several weeks ago. Since then, however, Cluj have managed six games without defeat, and have won four of their last five.

Dan Petrescu is a widely-respected figure in football (VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

It’s certainly one of the most intriguing looking clashes of the third Champions League qualifying round. If Neil Lennon can manage to knock the Romanians out, it really would cement a fine start to his tenure as manager.

But the Romanians are up for it, and according to their football director, they come into the clash without fear just like us.