Cyprus Mail
Europa League

Apoel, AEK and Apollon fight for Europa League group stage

Apollon’s Vassiliou tried to block van Wolfswinkel goalbound effort during the first leg clash between Apollon and FC Basel

The results of the first leg games of the three Cyprus teams involved in the Europa League Apoel, AEK and Apollon, gives them something more than just a fighting chance of getting the result they want and making it into the group stages of the competition.

If they manage to do so it will be the first time that three Cyprus teams will be competing in the group stages of a European competition.

AEK vs AS Trenčín (1-1) 18.30

AEK can progress to the group stages either with a goalless draw or a win by any margin following their 1-1 draw in Slovakia.

They will be hoping that it will be third time lucky as this is the third consecutive year that AEK are on the threshold of the Europa League group stages having failed on the previous two occasions. The last time they competed in the group stages of any European competition was seven years ago when they overcame the Norwegian team Rosenborg at the last hurdle.

Given what we saw in the first leg tie AEK are likely to prove too strong for AS Trenčín at the Arena Stadium where they have yet to concede a goal.

AEK’s coach may give Nacho Cases a starting berth in place of the more attack minded Tete in an otherwise unchanged team from the one that drew in Slovakia.

AS Trenčín will be without English defender James Lawrence who was transferred earlier this week to Anderlecht but their coach believes that his side have what it takes to get the right result especially after a battling performance against the leaders of the Slovakian league Slovan Bratislava where they managed a 3-3 draw after trailing by 3-0.

Astana vs Apoel (0-1) 17.00

The first leg in Nicosia was settled by a Kazu header quite late in the game for Apoel and an equally closely contested clash is expected in the return leg.

Apoel will have the talented yet volatile midfielder Tomas de Vincenti back in the fray after serving his one game suspension with Norwegian Ghayas Zahid expected to drop back to the bench. No other changes are expected to the starting eleven by Apoel’s manager Bruno Baltazar.

The Cyprus champions will need to be at their best especially at the back where Astana’s speedy wingers can cause a number of problems as they did in the first leg in Nicosia. However they will also have to adapt to the artificial playing surface something that is easier said than done even if they were allowed two training sessions at the Astana Arena.

Apollon vs Basel FC (2-3) 20.00

Of the three teams Apollon seem to have the most difficult task as they are up against a superior team in Basel FC.

Going forward Apollon are a force to be reckoned with, proof of this the two goals they managed in Switzerland, but it all depends how well they can cope with Basel’s forward line.

Apollon will be without the experienced Frenchman Kévin Bru who limped off in the first leg  with their coach Sofronis Avgousti expected to replace him with the Serbian Saša Marković.

No other changes are expected by Avgousti.

Basel FC are confident of coming away from Nicosia with a result that ensures their place in the group stages. Their Austrian coach Marcus Koller will be hoping for a quick goal that will settle his players nerves and put the pressure on his opponents.