Omonia and AEK welcome Beitar Jerusalem and Cliftonville to the island for the second legs of their Europa League second round qualifying ties on Thursday, with tasks of contrasting magnitudes for each side.
First up is the Nicosia club, who face the toughest challenge of the two Cypriot representatives as things currently stand. John Carver’s men put in a solid performance in Israel last week but were undone by a quick counter-attack in the second half and must now find a way of overturning that 1-0 deficit.
The club is trying to rally the fans to help them reach the next round, with various players sending messages via the official website for support. Club captain Renato Margaça said: “It is very important to have our fans beside us. We want you all to come to the stadium to support us. We believe that, together, we can qualify”.
Summer signing Matt Derbyshire, who has scored twice in his first three games for the club also sent a plea to the supporters: “It’s a massive game for everyone involved in the club. We need a 12th man on the field and we will try our best to get to the next stage”.
Carver has a healthy squad to choose from, apart from Badibanga who suffered an injury in the second leg of the first round.
Omonia are eager to shake off the tag of being the only one out of Cyprus’ so-called ‘big five’ yet to reach the group stages of European competition.
AEK’s task is rather more straight-forward. The side from Larnaca looked to be heading for a humiliation in Northern Ireland when they went 2-0 down against Cliftonville, but rallied back to win 2-3.
The result means that the tie is well and truly in their hands, and playing in front of their own fans will give them an added boost as they look to seal the tie.
Imanol Idiakez is likely to make a few changes for Thursday’s game; Vincent Laban suffered a knock in the first leg and could be rested to avoid any further risks, while key defenders Ilias Charalambous and David Catala may drop to the bench with the third round looming.
The manager may also be tempted to rest Ivan Trickovski who has been AEK’s talisman so far in the competition, scoring five goals in three games, with the next game potentially coming up seven days later.
Omonia get underway at the GSP Stadium in the capital at 7.30pm while AEK kick-off half an hour later at the Antonis Papadopoulos in Larnaca.