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Cyprus football

AEK and Apollon begin Europa League campaigns

Apollon face FK Kauno Zalgiris in Lithuania in the first leg, as they try to reach the group stage for the fourth straight year

AEK and Apollon, who finished in second and third place respectively in the league, begin their European journey for the new season in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.

AEK face the Moldovan side FC Petrocub at the Arena stadium in Larnaca in the first leg, with the Cypriot side favourites to progress to the next round despite the fact that they made just four signings so far, two of which are ineligible to play as they were signed too late to be registered with UEFA.

Their coach Imanol Idiakez will rely almost entirely on last season’s squad for this game with the only absentees being the now retired Katala and Igor Silva who returned to Olympiakos in Greece following his year-long loan period.

The Moldovans are novices to European football having just one participation prior to this one, when they were knocked out in the first round by Croatian side NK Osijek last year.

All but four of Petrocub’s players are Moldovans.

For some absurd reason the game kicks-off at 6.30pm where temperatures are expected to be very high.

Apollon clash with FK Kauno Zalgiris in Lithuania in their first leg encounter, with the Limassol side hoping to repeat what they achieved in the past three seasons and progress to the group stage of the competition.

Unlike AEK, Apollon have been very busy in the transfer market bringing in eleven new players with nine moving in the opposite direction.

A lot is expected of feisty winger Giannis Gianniotas (formerly of rivals Apoel) and towering 21-year-old Hungarian Attila Szalai.

FK Kauno Zalgiris was formed just 15 years ago (2004) and this will be their first ever appearance in a European competition.

The game will be played at the Darius and Girenas Stadium that has a capacity of just over 15,000. The game kicks-off at 8pm.

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