Apoel travel to Sevilla’s Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán for the second round of the Europa League group stage on Thursday night.
Having lost their group opener 4-3 in Nicosia to the supposedly weakest team of Group A, Dudelange from Luxembourg, the Cyprus champions now face an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition and it is highly unlikely that they can get anything out of their game against Sevilla, who are five-time winners of the tournament.
Julen Lopetegui though, the Sevilla coach, insisted before the game that his team will need to work hard to get the three points and reminded everyone that “Apoel knocked out Athletic Bilbao a few years ago and this season Ajax needed more than 130 minutes to break them down.”
Tomas Doll’s honeymoon period as coach at Apoel is well and truly over. After their impressive Ajax tie they imploded against Dudelange and managed a couple of narrow wins in the league they hardly deserved.
Doll acknowledged that and said after their last game: “It is important that we won but we need to improve, we need to be much better”.
A positive result against Sevilla will definitely ease the pressure off the shoulders of Doll, who has been lambasted by the local press, especially after the defeat to Dudelange.
For Apoel, Roman Bezjak and Tomas de Vincenti have stayed in Nicosia as they are both nursing injuries but the good news for Doll is that his two first-choice central defenders, Pantelis Vouros and Vujadin Savić, are both fit again with the latter having a better chance of making the starting eleven.
In the other Group A game Dudelange are at home to Qarabag FK and a win for the team from Luxembourg would see them take a huge step towards advancing to the group stages.
Both games start at 10pm.