Our prediction for this Europa League match:
Steaua will be looking to build on a hard-fought 1-0 win over Mlada Boleslav when they welcome Vitoria Guimaraes at their Stadionul Marin Anastasovici on Thursday evening. The Romanians showed character in the victory over the Czech outfit, but Guimaraes are likely to pose a much bigger threat for the hosts than their previous rivals. The good news for the hosts that defender Ionut Pantiru has overcome his injury.
The 23-year-old, who scored the winner against Mlada Boleslav, is likely to return to the starting line-up. The Primeira Liga side, on the other hand, rolled over Ventspils 9-0 on aggregate to set up a meeting with Steaua in the Europa League play-offs. Guimaraes are more of a team than Steaua, but beating the Romanians in Bucharest is easier said than done. The two teams meet for the first time ever in European competitions.
Highlighted Player (Denis Alibec):
After starting his senior career at Farul Constanta, Denis Alibec joined Italian giants Inter in 2009, but he failed to establish himself as a first-team regular at the Serie A club. The Romanian attacker made no more than two appearances for the Nerazzurri in the Italian top flight and he was hungry for a first-team football.
As a result, he signed a loan deal with Mechelen in 2011 and he spent the 2012/2013 season at Viitorul Constanta. Denis Alibec played one match for Bologna on loan as well and in 2014 he signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with Astra Giurgiu. Alibec scored 32 goals in 64 appearances for the club before joining Steaua Bucharest in 2017.
He has been playing for the Stelistii ever since and it has to be noted that he scored eight goals for the Romanian outfit in the 2016/2017 Liga 1 campaign. Denis Alibec made his debut for the Romania national football team on October 11, 2015 in an Euro 2016 qualifier against Faroe Islands.
Highlighted Team (Guimaraes):
Vitoria Guimaraes have always been in the shadow of famous Portuguese sides Porto, Benfica and Sporting, but over the years they have established themselves as a top-table side in the Primeira Liga. Os Vimaranenses did well to win Taca de Portugal in the 2012/2013 season, wi the team beating Benfica in the final of the domestic cup.
Vitoria Guimaraes finished the 2016/2017 Primeira Liga campaign in fourth place in the standings and, as a result, they booked their place in the Europa League qualifiers. The Portuguese side will face the likes of Salzburg, Konyaspor and Olympic Marseille in Group I and they are seen as underdogs in their group. Vitoria Guimaraes welcome their rivals at Estadio D. Alfonso Henriques and the venue can hold up to 30.000 spectators.
Os Vimaranenses play their home games in white shirts and white shorts, whilst they wear black when playing on the road. Their neighbours Braga are considered Guimaraes’ fiercest rivals and the two teams face each other in the derby of Minho Province.