By Nemanja Bjedov
APOEL host Maccabi Tel-Aviv on Thursday night, needing a second successive Europa League Group F home win if they are to remain in with a chance of reaching the round of 32, while anything other than a two-goal victory would mean Apollon’s dream is finished when they visit Trabzonspor in Group J.
The Cypriot champions revived their campaign by beating Bordeaux 2-1 in Nicosia in the last round and are now third in the group with four points from as many matches. But a defeat or score draw against second placed Maccabi, who have seven points, would end their hopes of a top-two finish.
The two teams met on Matchday one, with the game ending in a goalless draw. However, APOEL were definitely the happier of the two sides after their goalkeeper Urko Pardo saved a 95th-minute Barak Itzhaki penalty at the Bloomfield Stadium.
Croatian striker Mario Budimir is suspended for the Maccabi clash, while Constantinos Charalambides, Marcelo Oliveira and Joao Guilherme are all in danger of picking up suspensions with a yellow card.
APOEL coach Giorgos Donis had doubts over Esmael Goncalves’ fitness but it seems that the Portuguese forward will be available for selection.
Apollon Limassol, the national cup holders, need a victory against Trabzonspor in order to have any chance of overtaking the Turkish outfit or Lazio at the top of the group. Yusuf Erdogan struck on 86 minutes to earn Trabzonspor a 2-1 win when the teams met for the first time in the first round in Nicosia in what was Apollon’s first ever meeting with a Turkish side.
Christakis Christoforou’s men are currently third in Group J with four points, while Lazio have eight and Trabzonspor 10.
Christoforou has no worries with suspensions as only Georgios Vasiliou has two yellow cards and will miss the last match in the group if he is booked. However, Apollon have been significantly weakened as Fotios Papoulis will be absent for personal reasons, while Andreas Stavrou, Dimitris Froxylias, Rachid Hamdani, Andreas Frangkou and Marios Stylianou all did not travel.
The match at the Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium is scheduled to start at 8pm, while APOEL kick-off at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia at 10.05pm.