Astra Giurgiu vs Oleksandriya – Thursday 18:30 BT/19:30 CET – Stadionul Marin Anastasovici, Giurgiu
For the second season in a row, Oleksandriya will attempt to reach the group stage of the Europa League. The Ukrainians were smashed at this juncture last season succumbing 1-6 on aggregate against the Croatian side Hajduk Split.
This season the team coached by Volodymyr Sharan hopes to get through this stage and then qualify for the group stage in the playoffs. The game against Astra will, however, not be an easy task for a side deprived of any superstars. Oleksandriya’s only “foreigner” is Pavlo Pashaev, who is a Ukrainian national playing for the Azeri national team.
Without any star power in their ranks, Europa League qualification will be a difficult task. In particular against Astra Giurgiu, who have plenty of European experience. The side coached by Alexandru Radu reached the round of 32 of the Europa League last season, but then managed just a sixth place finish in the Romanian Liga I.
It was only thanks to CFR Cluj failing to obtain a UEFA license—the club declared bankruptcy in 2015 and was considered a new club by UEFA and therefore not eligible to play in Europe—that Giurgiu were given a qualification spot. Oleksandriya comes off a strong season in Ukraine and will, therefore, be considered slight favourites going into this tie.
Astra Giurgiu vs Oleksandriya – Player to look out for:
Alexandru Ionita #10 – Astra Giurgiu
Alexandru Ionita is Astra Giurgiu’s biggest talent. The 22-year-old was developed in Rapid Bucharest’s youth academy before signing with Astra three years ago. Playing nine games in his first professional season with Astra Ionita has slowly increased his playing time from 15 games in 2015-16 to 31 games in 2016-17. Scoring four goals and two assists last season Ionita still needs to work on his productivity, but the flexible attacking midfielder highlighted that he could be dangerous in the second round of Europa League qualifying scoring one goal and one assist in the two games against FK Zira from Azerbaijan.
Andriy Zaporozhan #29 – Oleksandriya
Andriy Zporozhan is the veteran in an Oleksandriya side deprived of any real stars. Signed by Oleksandriya from Enerhetyk in 2008 the 34-year-old Zaporozhan has played 235 games with Oleksandriya. The captain was already a major part of the squad when Oleksandriya was still a mainstay in the Ukrainian second division and played 144 games with the in the lower division. With Oleksandriya reaching the Europa League for the second season in a row this might be Zaporozhan’s last chance of European group stage football.
Astra Giurgiu vs Oleksandriya – Match Stats
- Oleksandriya have qualified for the Europa League for the second season in a row.
- Last season the Ukrainians were eliminated 1-6 on aggregate by Hajduk Split.
- Astra Giurgiu have qualified for their fifth European campaign.
- The Romanians reached the round of 32 in the Europa League last season—their best result ever.
- Astra Giurgiu have never before faced Ukrainian opposition.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Astra Giurgiu vs Oleksandriya 0-1
Astra Giurgiu vs Oleksandriya – Possible Lineups
Iliev – Stan, Erico, Polczak, Belu – Mrzljak, Dandea, Nicoara – Marquinhos, Chipirliu, Ionita
Manager: Alexandru Radu
Pankiv – Basov, Batsula, Chebotaev, Gitchenko – Grytsuk, Kalenchuk, Polyarus, Zaporozhan – Kozak, Sitalo
Manager: Volodymyr Sharan
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.