So… it all comes down to a triple-header to decide who wins the Romanian league championship 2016-17, and who gets the second Champions League qualifier spot. After the top three all won their away games last weekend, the final three fixtures of the Liga 1 play-off will all kick off at 8pm this Saturday evening.
If FCSB and Viitorul finish level on points, Viitorul will win the league because of their superior head-to-head record in this phase of the season. Despite being the people who come up with these procedures, the website of the League itself shows FCSB on top:
So Viitorul just need to win their match, at home to CFR Cluj, to take the title to Ovidiu for the first time. If they fail to win at the Hagi Academy Stadium, and both Bucharest teams do win, the King’s boys will be condemned to third place and the Europa League. CFR Cluj lost 3-0 at home to Dinamo last weekend, and have nothing to play for.
Dinamo themselves, who have revived dramatically under Cosmin Contra, winning five of their last six games, face Astra at Stefan cel Mare. Astra’s coach and at least 14 players are leaving when the season ends – they have only a Romanian Cup final left to aim for. Dinamo need to win, and to rely on one of the others to slip up, in order to snatch a Champions League qualification place. It is worth pointing out that if Dinamo win, and the other two both fail to do so, Dinamo will take the title.
FCSB feel that CSU Craiova have demeaned the competition by fielding largely a youth team in their 1-0 home defeat last weekend against Viitorul. The Craiova management claim that the changes were justified: after all, they have a Romanian Cup semi-final second leg to play next Wednesday – ten days after the Viitorul clash. The club ran a poll on its website this week to ask if they should put out another weakened team against FCSB, or whether they should go for the win. On Tuesday evening, a slight majority was in favour of putting out a full-strength side. On Wednesday the team was announced: it will indeed be the first-choice line-up. FCSB will not be pleased. Last month FCSB owner Gigi Becali took umbrage at some offensive comments in a matchday programme, written by Craiova fans but, Becali maintained, facilitated and supported by the club’s owner Mihai Rotaru. As is his wont, he called Rotaru some nasty names in the media and suggested that he has a “dirty character”. Perhaps denying FCSB the title would be a sweet revenge.
As two of these big final-round matches will be played simultaneously in Bucharest, around 5km apart, it will be interesting to see if there is any trouble beforehand or afterwards. Both should be well-attended, even if it does clash with Eurovision (and a Mahala Rai Banda gig in Herastrau Park, which I’ll be going to instead!). Does the league have a spectacular ending in store?