By Andreas Vou
CYPRUS is gearing up for another big European night on Thursday as two of its representatives look to seal progression to the Europa League play-off round.
Both Ermis Aradippou and Omonia are aiming to see off their respective challenges which would leave them just two matches away from the group stages of the Europa League, though the former’s task is a significantly tougher than the latter’s.
Ermis were last year’s surprise package in Cyprus – in their first season back in the top flight, the Aradippou club finished fourth in the table and reached the final of the Coca-Cola cup which earned them their place in European competition for the first time in their history.
The draw pitted them against Switzerland’s Young Boys who are no strangers to the competition and, while the game was a lot closer than many expected, Ermis succumbed to a narrow 1-0 defeat.
Ermis boss Nicos Panayiotou, however, is confident that his side can reverse proceedings and earn a famous qualification on home soil.
“The moment has come for our big date and our first target of the season. We have a chance, the ability, as well as the belief that we can go through. This does not mean that the task will be easy. Whoever saw the first match knows the capabilities of our opponent,” the former Cypriot international said.
“But our own capabilities fill us with confidence. The result in Switzerland keeps us alive,” Panayiotou concluded.
Omonia, on the contrary, have one foot in the next round following their comfortable 3-0 victory over FK Metalurg last week.
The Nicosia club began their European campaign from the second qualifying round where they oversaw the challenge of Montenegro’s Buducnost with a 2-0 aggregate score. Qualification to the next round appears to be almost a formality and Costas Kaiafas’ side look in good stead having not yet conceded a goal in the competition this campaign.
Agis Iacovides, head of the Omonia board, insists his side must remain professional despite the sizeable advantage going into the second leg.
“We are approaching the game with seriousness. It is the second half of a qualifying match and that is how we see it. We do not want to be branded favourites. I believe the team is ready.”
Ermis’ encounter with Young Boys is the first of the day, with kick-off at 17:00 Cyprus time, while Omonia’s match starts at 21:45.