Apoel are playing their last card tonight in Azerbaijan against Qarabag FK as a loss for the Cyprus champions will end any realistic hopes they may have of progressing to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
This will be third time the two sides will meet this season as they also faced each other in August in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.
In that tie Apoel managed to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg in Nicosia by defeating the Azeris 2-0 at the Tofiq Bahramov stadium.
The second leg in Azarbaijan was Apoel coach Thomas Doll’s first game in charge after replacing Paolo Tramezzani between the two legs.
However things have not been going very well for Doll’s team since then as Apoel have yet to pick up a point from their opening two games of the competition, losing to bottom side Dudelange in Nicosia and to Sevilla in Spain.
Their form in the domestic league has also been disappointing despite winning all three games they have played so far.
Apoel’s press spokesperson Nectarios Petevinos was candid when asked about the significance of the game: “If we do not get something out of this game, then we can forget about progressing to the next stage,” he said
“Hopefully a good result in Azerbaijan can kick-start our season not only in Europe but also in the Cyprus league where our performances have been problematic,” he added.
Apoel will be without Argentinian midfielder Tomas de Vincenti while all other players are at the disposal of the German coach.
Qarabag coach Gurban Gourbanov believes that his side will be better prepared for Apoel this time round as the element of surprise is no longer there.
“They had just brought in a new coach and we did not how he would set out his players on the field,” Gurbanov said.
Azeri midfielder Gara Garayev went a step further, saying: “This time there are no secrets, I am sure they have studied our style of play as much as we have theirs, but we do have the crowd behind us which I am sure will spur us on.”
The game will be officiated by Slovakian referee Filip Glova and will kick-off at 7.55pm.
In the other group A game, Sevilla will be strong favourites to register their third straight win in the competition against Dudelange.
This game gets underway at 10pm.