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Steaua wary of Middlesbrough backlash

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Apr 26 (Reuters) Steaua Bucharest fear a Middlesbrough backlash could derail their UEFA Cup hopes when the two sides meet for a place in the final tomorrow.

The Romanians, the 1986 European champions, lead 1-0 from last week's first leg in Bucharest but are wary of a wounded Boro side seeking swift compensation for Sunday's FA Cup semi-final defeat by West Ham United.

''They (Middlesbrough) have already missed out on one chance to accomplish a happy season,'' said striker Nicolae Dica, whose goal separated the sides.

''Now they will fight to save a possible disastrous season if they lose their second semi-final in a few days.'' Remarkably, the tie will be Boro's 25th cup game of the season and manager Steve McClaren has urged his side not to waste the opportunity to secure a first European final in their 130-year history.

''The players know what it feels like and how much it hurts to lose a semi-final,'' he said. ''They don't want to feel that again and nor do I.

''We know we can do it... We are on the brink of something special that will rewrite the history of this football club.'' Middlesbrough suffered another injury blow on Sunday when goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer suffered a fractured cheekbone, ruling him out for the season. Brad Jones will take his place.

Boro, who took a patched-up defence to the Romanian capital and were fortunate not to suffer a heavier defeat, have Gareth Southgate and Chris Riggott available again.

Steaua striker Victoras Iacob is in line for a surprise return after recovering from a broken shoulder bone sustained last month.

Iacob could start in place of the suspended Banel Nicolita although coach Cosmin Olaroiu may opt to move the speedy Daniel Balan into a forward role. Florin Lovin is expected to replace Sorin Paraschiv who is also banned.

Sevilla and Schalke 04 start all square at 0-0 in the other semi-final, the Spanish side riding their luck in Gelsenkirchen to stay in the hunt for a first European final in their centenary season.

Brazilian midfielder Renato hopes an early goal will open up the tie.

''We are the home side and will do what we can to score a goal as early as possible because this would force them to open up and leave some spaces,'' he said.

Sevilla earned an extra day's rest after their Primera Liga match against leaders Barcelona was abandoned on Sunday.

The home side are without striker Frederic Kanoute, who has a thigh injury, and Serbian defender Ivica Dragutinovic, who is struggling with a knee injury.

Centre back Javi Navarro is suspended while striker Kepa misses the rest of the competition for his sending off in the quarter-finals.

Schalke have gone five games without a win and travel without Serbian defender Mladen Krstajic who was sent off in the first leg.

The Bundesliga side are guaranteed a place in next season's competition as they cannot finish outside the top five but their chances of securing a Champions League place appear slim after a goalless draw with Werder Bremen on Sunday.

REUTERS PM SND1329

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