By Nemanja Bjedov
AFTER a 1-1 draw last Wednesday at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie, APOEL will take on Slovenian champions NK Maribor on Tuesday night at 9pm with a lot of work to do if they are to qualify for the playoff round.
“We have a lot of confidence going into the game. We have to show who we are and we will be more focused and play better in the second leg and we will qualify for sure,” said goalkeeper Urko Pardo
“I can promise that we will give 100 per cent and we will sweat blood if we need to.
“We’ll fight on the pitch and we’ll achieve what we want,” the confident Spaniard added.
APOEL president Phivos Erotokritou also believes the Cyprus champions will go through.
“We will play our game and I believe we will win. It is a difficult task but we have enough willpower and I think that a lot depends on us. I strongly believe in our progress,” he said.
“Even if we fail to progress it would not be the end of the world as some local media are reporting.
“APOEL is in a much better position than many other teams in Cyprus. “However, we hope that the match officials will rise to the occasion and be at a much higher level than last week in Nicosia. We all saw how that went,” he said, referring to a strong last-minute penalty appeal that was waved away.
“APOEL deserve more respect,” he concluded.
Maribor goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic did not share Erotokritou’s view though.
“They were throwing themselves to the ground, trying to force the referee to give them a penalty,” he said.
However, we managed to leave Nicosia undefeated and this is a success. We have seen that they have a quality team, but 1-1 allows us to hope of progression. We need to be focused, brave and efficient.”
The Slovenians will qualify with any win or a goalless draw, while APOEL need a victory or any high-scoring draw.
“We expect a very difficult 90 minutes at our stadium,” said Maribor midfielder Goran Cvijanovic.
“It is necessary to prepare ourselves as well as possible. We have analysed their strengths and weaknesses and we need to be very careful.
“We are not aiming for a goalless draw because we believe in our abilities and we want to give our supporters another jubilant night at the Ljudski Vrt Stadium,” he concluded.
By Nemanja Bjedov