Apoel are in Luxembourg on Wednesday night, aiming to seal their passage to the third qualifying round of the Champions League, with the Cypriots holding a 1-0 advantage over F91 Dudelange from last week’s encounter in Nicosia.
The Nicosia club did not manage to secure the big lead many thought they would have at the GSP Stadium seven days ago. In the end, they had to settle for just the solitary goal that arrived on 71 minutes from Facundo Bertoglio but it is an advantage that still makes them strong favourites to progress.
Mario Been was able to test a number of his players over the weekend in a friendly match against Ethnikos Achnas, and some of those who featured at the Dasaki who did not play in the first leg could well be ready for Wednesday’s showdown.
One of those is new signing Jesus Rueda. The Spanish centre-back appears fit to play after some initial fitness worries, while striker Mickael Pote also looked a lot sharper and could force his way into the lineup ahead of Igor de Camargo.
Vander Vieira made a positive impact when he came off the bench in the first leg and played a big part in the game’s only goal, which could see the Brazilian get a starting role.
Apoel press officer Nektarios Petevinos spoke to the media ahead of the team’s flight, saying that he believes his side will be more prepared than the first leg but that they need to do their talking on the pitch.
“What I expect from the team is to show a higher level of readiness in comparison to the first game,” he stated. “Apoel are a better team than Dudelange and they must show that on the pitch.”
He also revealed that 21 players have made the journey to Luxembourg, 18 of whom will make the manager’s final cut.
Apoel are heavy favourites but Dudelange gave a good account of themselves in the first leg, leading to a fair amount of optimism from the minnows.
Dudelange striker Bertino Barbosa said: “I believe that if we play like we did in the first game then we will go through”.
“They did not know much about us before the first game and perhaps they thought it would be easy, so they might play a bit tougher this time. But we are also highly motivated and we will definitely be ready,” assured the Portuguese front man.
In their last three Champions League home qualifiers, Dudelange have not managed to win, drawing their last two 1-1 Ludogorets and Qarabag, and losing by a single goal to Maribor in 2012. Their last victory of any kind in the Champions League was a 1-0 win over Salzburg on 17 July 2012.
While the hosts’ record may not invoke fear, Apoel’s away record in the competition will not provide much of a confidence boost either, having won just three on the road in their last 20 attempts.
The match kicks off at 7.00pm Cyprus time, and around 150 Apoel supporters have made the journey to back their side at the Stade Jos Nosbaum.