All three Cyprus teams competing in the Europa League on Thursday night have an excellent chance of advancing to the third qualifying round following their first leg results.
AEK face Levski Sofia defending a three-goal lead while AEL need a win by any scoreline against Aris Thessalonikis following their goalless draw in Greece.
Apollon meanwhile need to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Irish side Shamrock Rovers.
Should all three teams advance to the next round and coupled with Apoel’s successful passage to third qualifying round of the Champions League on Tuesday evening, Cyprus will stand a great chance of competing with two teams in the Champions League qualifiers in the 2020-21 season due to UEFA country ranking.
When the draw for the second qualifying round was made, Apollon were deemed to have had the easiest draw of the three teams.
However, the Limassol team will need to be at their best if they are to overcome the sturdy and resolute side from Dublin.
Even though Apollon took an early lead and outplayed Shamrock Rovers for most of the first half they fell apart after the restart and could have lost by a wider margin.
Apollon were outdone by two set-pieces and their coach Sofronis Avgousti will need to find a way of coping with Shamrock’s aerial dominance.
Apollon’s spokesperson said before the game that they expect a tough and physical match against a team that never seems to stop running. “We shall create chances, but we also need to be careful at the back not to concede,” he said.
Avgousti will be deprived of the services of perhaps his most influential player, the tough-tackling Argentinian midfielder Esteban Sachetti, who was sent off with a straight red in the first leg encounter.
The game will be played at the GSP stadium and kicks-off at 8.00pm.
The other Limassol team, AEL, fared better away to Aris Thessalonikis and managed to escape with a goalless draw.
AEL defended in numbers and allowed Aris plenty of possession with a similar pattern expected on Thursday as well.
A lot will depend on whether AEL coach Ducan Kerkez will throw caution to the wind, especially in the latter stages of the game, and push more players forward.
Kerkez will wait until the last minute to see if his captain Dossa Junior can shake off the injury he picked up in last week’s first leg.
Due to the ineligibility of the Tsirion stadium, thet game will be played at the Arena stadium in Larnaca with a kick-off time of 8pm.
AEK’s three-goal advantage may seem unassailable but Imanol Idiakez’s side were clearly outplayed in the opening 45 minutes in Larnaca and only when the Bulgarians were reduced to 10 men were they able to take control of the game and score three times.
Idiakez was quick to point out to his players after the first leg that they need to remain fully focused in the return leg as a quick goal by the Bulgarians may see the tide turning against them.
Kick off at the Georgi Asparuhov stadium is at 7.30pm.