As in the Bundesliga, VfB made a distinctly underwhelming start on the European front, but a 2-0 win in the previous game in Copenhagen has left the Swabian outfit in a promising position. Victory over Romania's record champions would even leave Bruno Labbadia's men in with a chance to win the group. As it stands, Steaua are on ten points and second-placed Stuttgart have five.
VfB have been particularly strong away from home in recent matches, earning eleven of their 16 domestic points on the road - the second best quota in the league. Despite that, Labbadia has warned that the atmosphere at the National Stadium, which hosted the 2012 Europa League final, is rather unique: “We can expect a bubbling hot cauldron with the fans ready to raise the roof," the 46-year-old said, before adding that "We know we're up to the challenge."
Praise for Steaua's team play
The former Hamburger SV and Bayer Leverkusen coach avoided singling out particular players from the ranks of Thursday's opponents, noting instead that Steaua "are good technically as well as tactically and work very well as a unit." That and the fact that the Romanian league leaders only need a draw to secure first spot makes them, in Labbadia's view, "a difficult team to judge." Above all, it will be a matter of maintaining absolute focus: "We won’t get seven or eight chances in this game, so we're going to have to make effective use of what comes our way.”
There will be changes to Stuttgart's back four as Georg Niedermeier didn't travel to the Romanian capital and his partner in central defence, Serdar Tasci, is doubtful. Mexico captain Maza and 19-year-old Antonio Rüdiger are the most likely starters in what could well be a key area in the contest.
Steaua: Tatarusanu - Gardos, Chiriches, Parvulescu - Bourceanu, Pintilii - Prepelita, Tanase, Costea - Rusescu, Chipciu
Stuttgart: Ulreich - Sakai, Tasci, Maza, Molinaro - Kvist - Harnik, Gentner, Kuzmanovic, Traore - Ibisevic