The three remaining Cypriot clubs in the Europa League, Apoel, Apollon and AEK are thrown into action on Thursday night in their second leg ties of the second qualifying round of the competition against Flora Tallin, FK Željezničar and Dundalk, with all three favourites to get through to the next round.
AEK v Dundalk FC 18.30 (0-0)
On paper AEK have the most difficult task as they will need to score following their goalless draw last week in Ireland.
AEK’s spokesperson Kyriacos Demetriou was quick to point out that his team faced a number of difficulties in the first leg not least the artificial pitch and a couple of injuries to key players just prior to the game.
However he said that the players coped well despite the difficulties they faced and concluded that ‘in front of our crowd I believe that we should qualify, maintaining our unbeaten home record in European games.’
Dundalk travelled to Cyprus in full knowledge of what to expect, especially the stifling heat, with their manager Stephen Kenny pointing out that his players should not concede possession easily as “you need to work harder when you don’t have the ball,” he said.
His players though arrived in buoyant mood with defender Daniel Cleary saying that they are confident they can get the result needed.
Another player Seán Hoare admitted that AEK are favourites to go through and stressed the importance of not conceding an early goal, adding: “our confidence is sky high and as long as we don’t concede I am sure that we shall score a goal.”
Recent results support this view as Dundalk have scored in 10 of their last 11 away games under Kenny.
Apollon vs FK Željezničar 20.00 (2-1)
Apollon hold a 2-1 advantage against FK Željezničar from the first leg in Sarajevo and in front of their fans they should be able to complete the job as they were much the better side in the away leg.
Boban Krismarevic came under a lot of criticism for Željezničar’s poor start to the season, both in the domestic championship as well as the Europa League and was sacked after the first leg.
He was replaced by 63-year-old Milomir Odović. Odović who is expected to ring the changes for the second leg in an effort to overturn the 2-1 deficit.
Flora Tallin vs Apoel 19.00 (0-5)
Apoel have by far the easiest task as they defeated Flora Tallin 5-0 in the first leg in Nicosia rendering the second leg a formality.
This will be Apoel’s 200th game in European competitions, becoming the first Cypriot team to achieve this feat.
Apoel coach Bruno Baltazar is expected to make a hatful of changes to give a chance to recently signed players to make their debuts in a competitive game.
Goalkeeper Romo, Greek midfielder Gentzoglou and Iranian striker Reza Ghoochannejhad are all expected to be in the starting line-up.
(First leg scores in brackets)