Cyprus champions Apoel begin their European journey for the new season in the first qualifying round of the Champions League with a tough fixture against Lithuanian champions FK Sūduva Marijampolė.
The Lithuanians are well into their domestic champiuonship, something that gives FK Sūduva a clear advantage over Apoel who have just a few friendly games under their belts.
FK Sūduva are currently top of their league (A Lyga), and seem set to capture their second championship as second placed FK Žalgiris trail by 8 points with 19 games played.
Last season FK Sūduva became just the third Lithuanian team to get through three qualifying rounds in a European competition (Europa League) only to be eliminated by Ludogorets of Bulgaria.
Apoel have become a permanent fixture in European group stage competitions and are well accustomed in coping with adversities.
Last season they were drawn against three European giants (Real Madrid, Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund) but still managed to draw their two games against Germany’s Dortmund.
Brazilian midfielder Vinicius, a seasoned campaigner in both the European competitions with Apoel, believes that with the experienced gained over the years by playing against the likes of Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo and Bale the Cyprus champions will progress, however he admitted that ‘it will be a long and tough journey to reach the group stages this season’.
Apoel have been busy in the transfer market this summer bringing in eight players including the old Apoel fan favourite, the Argentinian Thomas de Vincenti. However he is not expected to start the game as he joined the champions only a couple of weeks ago after a lengthy period of inactivity.
However the Jordanian Musa Suliman Al-Taamari, who has been named the ‘Messi of Jordan’, is expected to start and from the little we have seen of him in the friendlies, he will become very quickly a crowd favourite with his dazzling runs and incisive passing.
Another recent recruit, centre-back Yohan Tavares, is also expected to start while there is a question mark on whether Apoel’s coach Bruno Baltazar will trust the inexperienced new boy Kajou at left back or slot in the versatile Nicolas Ioannou in that position.
The rest of the line-up should be the more familiar faces of last season.
The game starts at 19.00 (finishes just in time to switch channels and watch England v Croatia) at the ARVI Football Arena that has a crowd capacity of just over 6.000.
The return game will take place six days later at the GSP stadium in Nicosia at 20.00.