Cyprus’ Europa League representatives Apoel Nicosia and Apollon Limassol are finalising their preparations ahead of their first qualifying round games on Thursday night against Kosovo side Gjilani and Georgian outfit Saburtalo Tbilisi respectively.
Apoel’s game against Gjilani kicks-off at 20:00 Cyprus time and will take place at the Fadil Vokrri Stadium in Pristina, while Apollon’s clash is scheduled for 19:00 Cyprus time and will take place at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia.
In terms of Apollon’s game, Uefa went ahead with a last-minute replacement of the match officials. The Swiss trio of Adrien Jaccottet (referee), Vital Jobin and Pascal Hirzel (assistants) will officiate the game.
The Limassol team announced on Wednesday that the entire squad and backroom staff were submitted to Covid-19 tests and that every test result came back negative.
Apollon have been bolstered by news that midfield stalwart Chambos Kyriakou is making a long-awaited return from injury and is expected to be included in the matchday squad.
Apollon will also be boosted by the availability of wide forward Giannis Gianniotas. The Greek was suspended for their opening league match against Doxa.
Apollon have also signed Swedish forward Daniel Larsson on a free transfer after he was released from Aris Saloniki.
During his pre-match press conference, Apollon manager Sofronis Augousti said that athough the team “isn’t 100 per cent ready, it’s ready enough to make it through to the next round”.
Apoel meanwhile arrived in Kosovo around midday on Wednesday. The travelling squad includes new signings Viktor Klonaridis and Dieumerci Ndongala. Klonaridis signed on a free transfer after leaving AEK Athens while Ndongala joined for an undisclosed fee from KRC Genk.
Klonaridis can play across a number of forward positions, having filled in at right wing, left wing, attacking midfield and at centre forward for AEK over the past three seasons. Klonaridis scored two goals and registered one assist across all competitions for AEK over the 2019-2020 season.
Ndongala is primarily a right winger, although he has, on the rare occasion, featured on the left wing for both Genk and Turkish side Kasimpasa, the latter being the club the winger spent a season on loan at. Ndongala also registered two goals and one assist across all competitions last season.
Both Apollon and Apoel are the bookies’ overwhelming favourites, however, the season is too young and the squads too raw for anyone to be this assertive about either team’s chances.
Both clubs will need to be concentrated and avoid complacency, regardless of how modest the background and budget of their opponents might be.