CFR Cluj prepare for visit of Celtic with a healthy league victory

By John McGinley

August 4, 2019

Celtic aren’t the only team bringing healthy momentum into this week’s UEFA Champions League qualifying clash in Romania, with home side CFR Cluj stretching their unbeaten run to seven matches this weekend.

Dan Petrescu’s side went a goal down in league action away to Chindia on Saturday, but rallied to win the match 4-1.

Star striker George Tucudean, who scored 21 goals last season, netted the crucial equaliser.

The 28-year-old has opened up this week (The Scottish Sun) about a heart problem which threatens his long-term career. However, he is still hoping to feature in the tie against Celtic.

Cluj now haven’t been defeated since a 1-0 defeat away to Astana early last month. Even that was a first leg defeat they eventually overturned successfully.

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They’ve yet to be beaten in league action, playing four matches and amassing ten points.

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A step up in quality

The reigning Romanian champions will almost certainly provide our toughest test of the summer so far.

Manager Dan Petrescu has them in confident form and they can’t be underestimated.

Celtic may have just hit St Johnstone for seven, but the Perth side barely threatened us, or cared to.

Cluj will likely attempt to put serious pressure on us ahead of the tie’s second leg in Glasgow. The hosts have scored 16 goals in their nine matches so far this term.

The key to success is how we deal with the match defensively. If we can keep things tight abroad on Wednesday, we’ll be heavy favourites to progress.

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Reasons to be cheerful

Thankfully for Celtic, Cluj don’t have a great recent history in European qualifying. In fact, they haven’t reached the group stage in either UEFA competition since 2012.

Last season they were dumped out of Champions League qualifying Malmo, then out of Europa League qualifying by Luxembourg outfit Dudelange. This tie is still very winnable for the Hoops.

Neil Lennon and his squad are seasoned pros when it comes to this process too. Nothing is likely to take us by surprise.

Despite their run of good form, Celtic should be confident heading into this encounter and we should be expecting Lennon’s side to progress.