By Nemanja Bjedov
Cypriot champions APOEL welcome in-form German side Eintracht Frankfurt in the second round of the UEFA Europa League Group F at the GSP Stadium on Thursday evening, while Apollon will look to regain ground after disappointing start in Group J when they meet Polish outfit Legia in Warsaw.
“They are a great side just like the other teams in our group. Our group opponents play at another level, but we will try and compete just like in all our games,” said Apollon coach Christakis Christoforou, whose team will also face SS Lazio.
Apollon recorded a morale boosting 2-1 victory over Alki last weekend which helped them climb up to third in the league standings, a single point behind the leaders and their city rivals AEL.
“We know our limitations and we are not under any illusions in this competition,” Christoforou went on.
“At the moment, our targets are to bring our budget down, get back into Europe next season and invest in young players. The Europa League serves as a great piece of experience both for the club and our youngsters.”
The Polish side’s squad includes two familiar faces for Cypriot football fans in Helio Pinto and Dossa Junior. Pinto spent the 2005-2006 season on loan at Apollon prior to joining APOEL, while Portuguese-born Junior is an active Cypriot international and played for three teams in Cyprus, most recently AEL.
The match at the Pepsi Arena in Warsaw is scheduled to kick-off at 7pm CET, while APOEL, who are the only Cypriot club ever to have beaten German opponents, take on Eintracht at 10.05pm local time.
APOEL have met German teams 12 times and recorded one win, a draw and 10 defeats; the overall record of Cypriot sides against German teams is rather daunting – 32 defeats in 38 matches.
This could be the last match in charge for APOEL’s Portuguese coach Paulo Sergio after only five months at the helm of the Nicosia powerhouse.
The defending Cypriot champions are under-performing and, with numerous names being thrown into the pot, it seems Sergio’s days are numbered.
APOEL were reinstated into the Europa League after being drawn to replace Fenerbahce SK following the Turkish club’s two-year exclusion from the UEFA competitions. They have not won in seven European games, and their 0-0 draw against Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC in the first round was their fifth stalemate in that seven-match spell.
Gustavo Manduca, Christian da Silva and Mario Budimir are all expected to skip the Eintracht clash due to injuries.