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Jul 28, 2021 at 6.30pm UK
CFR ClujCFR Cluj
LincolnLincoln Red Imps
FT(HT: 1-0)

Britto (9'), Toscano (87')

Preview: CFR Cluj vs. Lincoln Red Imps - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: CFR Cluj vs. Lincoln Red Imps - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Champions League clash between CFR Cluj and Lincoln Red Imps, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Favourites to progress following last week's first-leg win, CFR Cluj welcome outsiders Lincoln Red Imps to Transylvania on Wednesday.

With the winner of their Champions League second qualifying round tie set to meet either Slovan Bratislava or Swiss champions Young Boys next, the home side are within range of a place in the prestigious group stages.

Match preview

Romanian champions CFR Cluj were overwhelmingly fancied to sweep aside their Gibraltarian counterparts when the Champions League qualification draw was made, but made heavy weather of earning an advantage to take home from the Victoria Stadium last week.

In a tightly contested affair, Lincoln Red Imps surprisingly took a 1-0 lead into the break, thanks to an excellent team goal finished by Spanish midfielder Marco Rosa. However, two Gabriel Debeljuh goals in less than 20 minutes at the start of the second half saw the away side take the ascendancy in the tie.

Despite some late pressure, Marius Sumudica's team held on to take an all-important lead into Wednesday's return leg at Stadionul Constantin Radulescu.

The first club to benefit from the recent abolition of the long-standing away goals rule in UEFA competitions, Cluj advanced from the previous round courtesy of an extra-time goal in their 2-1 loss at Bosnian champions Borac Banja Luka.

A 4-3 win on aggregate after the additional 30 minutes - which only occurred due to the rule change - proved the kick-start they needed after starting the season with that European defeat and then losing the Supercupa Romaniei on penalties.

Since then, Cluj have won three games on the spin to start the defence of their domestic title with maximum points so far and take the whip hand in their continental clash with Lincoln.

Meanwhile, the visitors are yet to get back into league action, having finished their previous campaign in May - sealing a domestic double with victory over Glacis United in the Rock Cup final.

The Red Imps returned to competitive football with a draw at first round rivals Fola Esch, of Luxembourg, earlier this month; cruising to a 5-0 win on home soil a week later, to seal a 7-2 aggregate success.

Gibraltar's record champions - with 24 league titles, including fourteen in a row between 2003 and 2016 - Mick McElwee's side were the first team ever to represent the island nation in the Champions League qualifying process back in 2014, but have never yet made it through to the third round.

In order to break new ground this year, they may need to recall the club's infamous victory against then Scottish champions Celtic in 2016, with an upset of even grander proportions required if they are to turn over Cluj on Wednesday. If not, then a spot in the Europa League qualifiers awaits.

CFR Cluj Champions League form:
  • W
  • L
  • W

CFR Cluj form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W

Lincoln Red Imps Champions League form:
  • D
  • W
  • L

Team News

New Cluj coach Marius Sumudica has generally favoured a bold 4-3-3 formation since his appointment earlier this summer, so given the relative stature of their hosts, it was an unexpected move that saw him shift to a three-man defence in Gibraltar last week.

Having reverted to type for the league win over Academica Clinceni on Friday, it remains to be seen which way Sumudica will go, but Constantin Paun is again expected to play a role in supporting striker Gabriel Debeljuh up front.

First-team regulars Camora and Billel Omrani were both omitted from the past two games due to minor injuries, but could be ready to return for the hosts - at least playing a part from the bench.

Lincoln, meanwhile, are expected to persist with Spanish striker Kike in attack despite drawing a blank last week, though veteran Lee Casciaro or young Dylan Peacock provide alternative options.

After signing from Dinamo Riga earlier this month, Latvian forward Nikita Kovalonoks will hope to feature from the bench, following his debut in the first round tie with Fola Esch and a role as an unused substitute last time out.

National team captain Roy Chipolina - now aged 38 - will helm the back four once again, supported by another experienced campaigner, Scott Wiseman, who amassed more than 400 appearances in the English lower leagues after starting his career with hometown club Hull City in 2003.

CFR Cluj possible starting lineup:
Arlauskis; Susic, Graovac, Bouhenna, Latovlevici; Rodriguez, Sigurjonsson, Deac; Chipciu, Debeljuh, Paun

Lincoln Red Imps possible starting lineup:
Goldwin; Wiseman, Lopes, R. Chipolina, Toscano; Ronan, Yahaya, Rosa; Britto, Kike, Walker

We say: CFR Cluj 3-0 Lincoln Red Imps

After grinding out a come-from-behind win on the Victoria Stadium's tricky artificial surface, this week Cluj can prove the difference in class between these two clubs by comfortably cruising through to the next stage.

Even if their first XI is unable to break down Lincoln's resistance, any one of a number of talented players on the bench can make a decisive impact in the second half for the Transylvanian side.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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