By Andreas Vou
AALBORG of Denmark stand in the way of APOEL as the Cypriots attempt to reach the group stage of the Champions League for the third time in six seasons while AEL face Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League play-off.
The Nicosia giants oversaw the challenge of HJK Helsinki in the third qualifying round, capped off by a 2-0 win in the capital on Wednesday to earn a 4-2 aggregate win.
Aalborg pulled off an impressive comeback in their tie, winning 0-2 away from home against Champions League frequenters Dinamo Zagreb to seal a 2-1 overall victory.
APOEL have fond memories against Danish opposition as their first ever progression to the Champions League groups came after a 3-2 aggregate win over FC Copenhagen in the play-off round in 2009.
The Cypriot champions have become familiar faces in Europe in recent years; even a defeat in the play-off round would put them into the Europa League groups. Either way, APOEL have now reached the group stages of European competition for the fourth time in six
“As I said before, we had a 50-50 chance against all of our opponents. We will be playing a good opponent who are the champions of Denmark and who just had an excellent season. But I believe that we will be ready to face them and seize any chance we have of moving into the group stages, ” said manager Giorgos Donis.
Cyprus could have a further three representatives in the group stages of the Europa League.
AEL move into the Europa League play-off after losing to Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League third qualifying round. Their task has not got any easier, however, as they have been pitted against Premier League outfit Tottenham.
Following their comfortable 4-0 aggregate win over FK Metalurg, Omonia must overcome the challenge of Dinamo Moscow in order to seal their first ever progression to a group stage of European competition.
Apollon, who go straight into the play-offs after finishing third in the Cypriot first division, will also travel to the Russian capital to face Lokomotiv Moscow.
The first leg of the Champions League matches will take place on August 19th and 20th, and the second legs will be on the 26th and 27th of the same month. Europa League matches will be held on August 21st and 28th.
Champions League play-off draw
Maribor (Slovenia) v Celtic (Scotland)
Salzburg (Austria) v Malmo (Sweden)
AaB (Denmark) v APOEL (Cyprus)
Steaua (Romania) v Ludogorets (Hungary)
Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia) v BATE (Belarus)
Besiktas (Turkey) v Arsenal (England)
Standard Liege (Belgium) v Zenit (Russia)
Copenhagen (Denmark) V Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
Lille (France) v Porto (Portugal)
Napoli (Italy) v Athletic Bilbao (Spain)
Europa League play-off draw
FK Sarajevo v Borussia Mönchengladbach
Astana v Villarreal
Apollon Limassol v Lokomotiv Moscow
PEC Zwolle v Sparta Prague
Young Boys v Debrecen
Asteras Tripoli v Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Spartak Trnava v FC Zurich
AEL Limassol v Tottenham Hotspur
Dnipro v Hajduk Split
Dinamo Minsk v Nacional
Karabakh v FC Twente
Petrolul Ploiesti v Dinamo Zagreb
HJK Helsinki v Rapid Vienna
Trabzonspor v Rostov
Zimbru v PAOK
RNK Split v Torino
Omonia Nicosia v Dinamo Moscow
Aktobe v Legia Warsaw
Lyon v Astra Giurgiu
Lokeren v Hull
Neftchi v Partizan Belgrade
Ruch Chorzow v Metalist Kharkiv
IF Elfsborg v Rio Ave
PSV v Shakhtyor
Karabukspor v St Etienne
Stjarnan v Inter Milan
Panathinaikos v FC Midtjylland
Feyenoord v Zarya Luhansk
Grasshoppers v Club Brugge
Real Sociedad v Krasnodar
Rijeka v Sheriff