Cyprus Mail
Champions League Europa League Football

Cyprus hopefuls avoid the big guns in European playoff round

Apoel players celebrate scoring against Vitorul

Two Czech sides and a Danish one stand between Cyprus’ three representatives and a place in the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League.

Apoel are drawn to play against Slavia Prague in the Champions League playoff round while the two Cyprus representatives in the Europa League playoff round, Apollon and AEK, managed to avoid the stronger teams in their pools. They will play FC Midtjylland from Denmark and the Czech side FC Viktoria Plzeň, respectively.

Apoel, by far the most successful team in Cyprus in recent years, will be vying for their fourth appearance in the highly lucrative Champions League group stage against the second most successful club in the Czech Republic.

Even though Slavia Prague had the lowest Uefa club ranking from the pool they were drawn in they should not be taken lightly, as this year they have been taken over by Chinese investors who have poured millions into the club.

Danny, a Portuguese international, who was a regular for Zenit Saint Petersburg for almost ten years was snapped up by the Czechs in June along with former Turkish international Halil Altintop, who plied his trade in Germany with the Bundesliga side FC Augsburg.

However the biggest threat to the Nicosia team will probably come from their Czech international striker Milan Škoda, who has managed a goal in every two and a half games since moving to Slavia in 2012.

In the last round, Slavia Prague knocked out Belarusian champions Bate Borisov on the away goal rule having won the first game in Prague by 1-0 and losing the return by 2-1.

The first leg will be played in Nicosia on Tuesday, August 15th.

Apollon should be more than pleased with their draw as they avoided the likes of Atletico Bilbao, Everton and Salzburg.

This will be the second time in a couple of years that FC Midtjylland faces a Cyprus team. Two years ago they were knocked out by Apoel in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.

FC Midtjylland have managed to qualify once for the group stages of the Europa League in 2015-16 when they finished second in their group and qualified for the round of 32 only to be knocked out by Manchester United 6-3 on aggregate.

In the previous round, the Danes scraped through on the away goal rule eliminating the Polish side Arka Gdynia thanks to a goal by their Norwegian striker Αlexander Sorloth in the third minute of added time.

The first game will be played on Thursday, August 17th in Limassol.

Aek Larnaca also managed to escape the big guns from their pool (Marseille, Zenit) and will face up and coming Czech side FC Viktoria Plzeň.

Since 2011, FC Viktoria Plzeň have competed in a European tournament group stage on five occasions missing out only in 2014. Their most successful year was in 2013 where they were eventually knocked by Lyon in the round of 16.

The Czechs were knocked out of this year’s Champions League tournament by Steaua București after looking favourites to progress following their 2-2 draw in Bucharest. However, in the return leg in Plzeň they lost 4-1.

It’s worth mentioning that last year AEK were knocked out in the playoff stage by another Czech side, Slovan Liberec, losing both legs for an aggregate loss of 4-0.

The first game will be played in Plzeň on Thursday, August 17th.

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