Astra Giurgiu v West Ham United

Last year's preview from Preview Percy didn't add much to our knowledge of our next opponents. This year's, if anything, manages the neat trick of subtracting from that knowledge....

It's Thursday Night League time. For once we are facing a team we have already met in the form of FC Astra Giurgiu of Romania. Kick-off is 7.15 UK time which is a quarter past something or other local time. BT have the tv rights so you can listen to it on your phone or something. Take care though. For the Domzale away match I misread the instructions and ended up with a bill from the Slovenian speaking clock. At least I think that's what it was.

Since their formation in 1921 Astra have had more changes of name than Chelsea have players out on loan, finally alighting n their current name which they have had since their 2012 move from Ploiesti, with whose current team they maintain some sort of rivalry.

They come into this competition as champions of Romania, having come through one of those systems that could see you sweep all that goes before you and still not win anything. They won the "regular season" taking 51 points from 26 games. Then the league split. The top 6 teams then played in another league, carrying forward half of the points won to that new league. Astra managed to win that too, finishing with 48 points from 10 games (!), 5 points clear of Steua Bucarest, who also qualified for the third qualifying round for the So-called Champions League. Defeats for Astra against FC Copenhagen (1-1 home 0-3 away) saw them drop down into the Thursday Night League where they will face us.

So far this season as defending champions has not started too well. The opening day saw them crash 4-1 at home to Dinamo Bucharest. A 0-0 draw away at Pandurii was followed up by another home reverse, this time goig down 2-1 to Craiova. They finally picked up their first win of the season with a 3-0 home win over Poli Timosara of 1981 Cup Winners Cup run fame.

The work experience girl wearing the Dumpy's Rusty Nuts t-shirt without knowing who they are has struggled to find out much about either playing or managerial staff. Like last season's work experience kid (the one with the Harry Potter spectacles) she has found that any search for information is greeted by a few lines helpfully informing the reader that the person they have just searched for is a footballer who plays for Astra Giurgiu. Which is why she has spent the last couple of hours shouting "I know that, dummy. That's why I'm asking about him" at her computer screen.

From last season I note that the squad still contains the splendidly-named Silviu Lung Jr in goal. He's the son of Silviu Lung (obviously) who was also a 'keeper who gained 77 caps for Romania between 1977 & 1993. Junior too has gained international recognition though his appearances in the international side have been sporadic rather than regular - 3 caps in 6 years is the stat. incidentally Jr has an older brother, Tiberiu, who is also a 'keeper. Big Bruv has also been capped by Romania and is currently turning out for Mpumalanga Black Aces in South Africa. There are also a pair of younger twins in the family but, since Punctured and Collapsed don't play in goal' they don't talk about them much.

The big name in defence is Geraldo Alves, the big brother of Portugal's Bruno who was last seen kicking Harry Kane in the head, narrowly missing his brain by six feet. Now 35 he has spent the last 6 years in Romania. A spell with the aforementioned Steua was followed up with three years with Astra's former local rivals Petrolul Ploiesti. He came in at the start of last season.

Joint top scorer, for what it's worth at this stage of the season is Daniel Niculae. Niculae is a former Romanian international with 39 caps to his name, picking up 9 goals in the process. At 33 and with 4 years having elapsed since his last international appearance it's probably fair to say his international career is behind him though he's still capable of performing at domestic level at the end of a career which took in spells in the French League with Auxerre and Monaco.

At the risk of giving the work experience girl wearing the Dumpy's Rusty Nuts t-shirt without knowing who they are a nervous breakdown I'll think we'll leave them there for the time being and consider us.

Chelsea? Well yes we didn't play well but yet again the match was ultimately decided by the actions - or in this case inactions - of a referee whose performance was yet again unacceptable. Wouldn't it be nice if, instead of announcing each season which of the laws they are going to concentrating on applying (this year dissent, last year, holding in the box, you know the score) PGMOL announced that they would be applying all of the laws of the game and would be issuing sanctions and suspensions to their employees who failed to do so. Then maybe dissent - much of which arises from refereeing ineptitude anyway - might not be the problem they think it is. I wouldn't mind but if dissent is this season's flavour of the month Taylor seemed to forget that from time to time, particularly if the players surrounding him were wearing blue. It's the usual story. You are more likely to get a yellow (or a fine) for complaining about a player who commits three yellow and one red card offences than the player is to get the yellow and red cards the offences merit in the first place.

The traditional "new signing, new injury" curse raised its ugly head as Andre Ayew went down clutching his thigh but Tore made an earlier return to the cause than had been anticipated. Cresswell, Feghouli and Lanzini will all be absent from injury as will Sakho, whose "back injury" may or may not be complicated by the absence of a spine. On the plus side Jonathan Calleri has finally worked his way through the queue at Heathrow immigration and had his documents stamped in time to get straight back on another plane heading in the general direction of Romania. Not sure how much work with the team he will have been able to get through but he is available if we want him.

So a prediction then. Well using last season as a guide would be rather pointless. It is clear that there has been a sea-change in our attitude towards the Thursday Night League since then. The game plan 12 months ago was to stick out a strong team in the first leg with the hope that the kids sent out to Romania for the second leg would be able to complete the job. As it happened two late goals for the visitors in the home leg put a damper on that plan, though the youngsters acquitted themselves well over there. This time the reversal of the legs will be crucial. They've not had the greatest of starts in the league and I think we will have too much for them over two legs. So the ?2.50 that we were going to send to Anthony Taylor to help him find buy a copy of the Laws Of The Game (he'd never have been able to work out how to open the envelope anyway), will now be placed on us to progress over the two legs. Say 1-0 to us over there and 3-1 to us at home.

Enjoy the games!

When last we met: Drew 2-2 (home leg) Lost 2-1 (Away Leg) . The kids went down 2-1 after a 2-2 draw in the home leg. Slav tried really hard to look upset. But failed.

Referee(1st Leg) Artur Dias. (Portugal) ) Doesn't seem to have done much in the past. One of his assistants is compatriot Rui Tavares, inspiration behind the hit single "Heaven Must Be Missing A Linesman"

Danger Man: Daniel "Nico" Niculae experienced former Romanian international who has two this season so far.

Percy's Poser : Last time out I asked you which of the 13 professional football clubs currently plying their trade in the top four divisions, how many are actually older than what Chelsea's banner proclaims to be "London's First"? The answer is: Pretty much all of them actually.

Chelsea were formed in 1905. Of the other 12 clubs, Ourselves, Arsenal, Spurs, Brentford, Fulham, QPR, Millwall, Barnet and Leyton Orient were all formed in the 1800s. Palace & Charlton were also formed in 1905 which just leaves AFC Wimbledon who were formed in 2002, which is still a good year before most Chelsea supporters discovered football. The signed Picasso was won by Mrs Dorothy McZappa of Canvey Island. Well done Dorothy!

For this week's poser it's time to see if you were paying attention 12 months ago. For a chance to win a used cotton bud complete with original earwax, simply tell us this: After the execution of former Romanian leader Nicolai Caeusecu what was the first action of the Revolutionary Committee who had ordered the execution?

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