UEFA Cup: Steaua Bucharest have edge

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Steaua Bucharest has a 1-0 lead going into Thursday's UEFA Cup semifinal.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:38 IST
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Steaua Bucharest has a 1-0 lead going into Thursday's UEFA Cup semifinal. The European Cup winners in 1986, Steaua takes it narrow lead to Middlesbrough. In other second-leg semifinal, Schalke goes to Spain's Sevilla following a 0-0 draw last week in Germany. The final will be played on May 13 in Eindhoven, Netherlands. "We're not going to Middlesbrough to defend the 1-0 advantage from the first match,'' coach Cosmin Olaroiu said. "It's important that we score. Anyway, the pressure will be greater for them.'' Steaua Bucharest will be without its best player, winger Banel Nicolita, who is suspended. Schwarzer injured Middlesbrough's main casualty is goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who is out with a broken cheekbone. The Australian was injured in Sunday's 1-0 loss to West Ham in the semifinals of England's FA Cup. The FA Cup loss may make 'Boro even more desperate for a victory. "We would have been happier if they had won,'' Steaua defender Dorin Goian said. Olaroiu dismissed suggestions that Steaua players might wear ear plugs to block out the noisy atmosphere at Riverside Stadium. "If they do that, they can't hear my orders from the sideline,'' Olaroiu said. Sevilla has an advantage playing at home at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. And Schalke has an edge, having kept Sevilla from scoring in the first leg in Germany. Sevilla hasn't lost at home in the UEFA Cup this season with five victories and a draw. Kanoute suspended Forward Frederic Kanoute and defender Javi Navarro are suspended and five other players are carrying yellow cards. "Schalke has a compact team and they'll play defensively,'' Sevilla's Brazilian midfielder Renato said. Sevilla defender Aitor Ocio warned about Schalke's height advantage. "It's a tall team, not just the forwards, and they'll keep looking to send the ball in the air,'' Ocio said. Schalke's Uruguayan defender Dario Rodriguez is battling a left-calf injury and could miss the game. His absence would hurt Schalke's defenCe, which already will be without the suspended Mladen Krstajic. All four teams have had scant success internationally. Multi-millionaire owner Gigi Becal has promised $120,000 to each player if Steaua reaches the final. Schalke won the UEFA Cup in 1997, but hasn't won the Bundesliga since 1958. Sevilla has never won a European title, and won its last Spanish league title 60 years ago. Middlesbrough has yet to win a major trophy - internationally or domestically. Two years ago the club won the League Cup, England's No. 2 knockout competition. (AP)

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