Apollon host Atalanta at the GSP Stadium tonight (8pm), where a win is of maximum importance if the Cypriots are to stand a chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
After two consecutive away matches in the competition, Apollon will be looking to make use of their home advantage in order to steer their European campaign back in the right direction.
Sofronis Avgousti’s men salvaged late draws against Lyon and Everton in their first two matches, but a heavy 3-1 defeat at Atalanta last time out leaves them three points adrift of second place.
At the Mapei Stadium a fortnight ago, Apollon were dealt a harsh lesson against the quick and free-flowing attack of Atalanta. Despite Andre Schembri cancelling out Josip Ilicic’s opener, Apollon eventually collapsed under Atalanta’s heavy pressure, with Andrea Petagna and Remo Freuler scoring shortly after.
Therefore, Apollon will be fully aware that three points against the Italians is a tough ask, but it is a result they must pursue after Lyon’s win at Everton puts them three points above the Cypriots in second.
Despite being top of the group with seven points, Atalanta will be as hungry as Apollon as they know that a win coupled with Everton failing to defeat Lyon will see them through.
As far as team news goes, Valentin Roberge remains suspended for the red card he picked up at Goodison Park on Matchday Two, while Andrei Pitian, who deputised for the French defender in Italy, is a doubt.
Long-serving defender Angelis Angeli featured in Apollon’s weekend win over Doxa after ten months out injured but is not expected to start, with the club looking to wean him back carefully after his lengthy absence.
That means that Brazilian midfielder Alef may have to drop from midfield into central defence, a role that he has played on a handful of occasions.
Apollon have made a perfect start to their league campaign at home, winning all four of their matches. They also happen to be unbeaten in their last eight Europa League matches in front of their own supporters, the last one being that memorable 93rd minute equaliser against Lyon in the opening group game of the season.
The current Apollon setup is renowned for its attacking potency, and the fact that they have scored at least one goal in each of their last 11 European games shows they are able to compete regardless of the opposition.
Against Italian sides, however, Apollon have yet to win in five matches, recording three away defeats and two home draws.
The last Italian club to face Apollon in Cyprus were Lazio, in the group stages of the same competition in 2013/14 – a 0-0 draw at the GSP.
In fact, no club from Cyprus has beaten Italian opposition in 23 UEFA competition fixtures.
Atalanta are flying in Europe but last year’s fourth-placed side in Serie A have made an average start domestically, currently lying in tenth position after 11 matches.