Cyprus Mail

AEK: we have faith that we can do it

AEK Larnaca travel to the Czech Republic trailing Slovan Liberec 1-0 from the first leg, but are looking to defy the odds again after eliminating Spartak Moscow in the previous round

AEK face the tough task of reversing a 1-0 deficit when they take on Slovan Liberec away from home in the second leg of the Europa League playoff on Thursday night (8pm).

The Cypriots visit the Czech Republic trailing by one goal after Vladimir Coufal handed Liberec a win and an away goal in Larnaca last week.

AEK defied all the odds in the previous round by picking up a shock 0-1 win in Moscow to knock out a much-fancied Spartak side, and will be looking to emulate those memorable scenes on Thursday.

Imanol Idiakez has been boosted by the return of influential defender David Catala to the squad, after the Spaniard missed the first leg through injury, though it remains uncertain as to how much he will be able to participate.

Much of AEK’s hopes of reaching the competition’s group stage for the second time will be placed on the shoulders of their attacking stars such as Joan Tomas, Andre Alves, and especially Ivan Trickovski, who has scored six goals in the seven qualifiers so far this campaign, including the famous late winner in Moscow.

AEK press officer Kyriakos Demetriou spoke to Cypriot radio station SuperSport FM about his thoughts on the challenge that lies ahead for his team: “From the very beginning, we said we would not give up. We believe we can reverse proceedings, we want to see the team give their all in order to increase our chances of qualifying. We have faith and confidence that we can do it.”

AEK have been busy in the transfer market this summer, bringing in a host of new faces, including experienced Cypriot internationals Constantinos Charalambidis and Antonis Georgallides. Most recently, they announced the capture of former Manchester City full-back Javier Garrido, who spoke to the club’s official website about his new team’s chances.

“I watched the team against Slovan Liberec, where we unfortunately did not get the best result. But the team have shown they have the right character and I am sure they will work hard to reverse the score,” said the 31-year-old.

He added: “I believe we can qualify. We saw what the team managed to do in Moscow in the previous round, so why can’t they do the same in the Czech Republic?”

Just how much emphasis is being placed on the coming clash with AEK was highlighted by Liberec manager Jindich Trpisovsky’s selection for last Sunday’s league match against Zbrojovka Brno. The Czechs rested ten of those who played in Cyprus last week, with only defender Lukas Bartosak playing in the 0-0 home draw.

Liberec’s start to the domestic campaign has been poor, drawing two matches at home and losing the other two away. Nevertheless, it seems as though reaching the Europa League group stage is their main priority, winning all three of their games so far.

As far as recent home form goes in Europe, Liberec have won four out of their last ten, and drawn one. AEK have won all three of their away matches in the Europa League so far this season, against Folgore (1-3), at Cliftonville (2-3) and most recently against Spartak Moscow (0-1).

In their previous eight, however, they have won just one.

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