APOEL take on Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv in their opening Europa League Group F match on Thursday evening (8pm) at the Bloomfield Stadium, while Apollon Limassol will make their debut in a major European group stage at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia (10.05pm) as Trabzonspor of Turkey make their third visit to Cyprus.
In what was their only previous meeting in the second qualifying round of the 2005-2006 UEFA Cup, APOEL prevailed over the Israeli side following a 1-0 victory at home and a 2-2 draw in Tel Aviv after extra time.
APOEL have featured in the Champions League group stage twice, famously making it to the quarter-finals in 2011-2012 when they were beaten by Real Madrid in what was their last defeat away from home in Europe. Since then, the Nicosia giants have recorded three victories and two draws. This will be the first participation in the Europa League group stage for the Cyprus champions.
APOEL coach Paulo Sergio selected 22 players for the trip to Tel Aviv, but he will not be able to count on influential Brazilian midfielder Gustavo Manduca and Selim Benachour for the clash against Maccabi, who drew 3-3 against the Cyprus national football team in Tel Aviv on 23 July 1949 in what was the Cypriots’ first match after being admitted to FIFA in 1948.
Cyprus Cup holders Apollon meanwhile eliminated French side Nice in the playoff round to reach the group stage of the competition.
Apollon coach Christakis Christoforou has almost a full squad to choose from as the only absentee will be Romanian defender Ovidiu Dananae who is injured. It is expected that 15,000 fans will travel to Nicosia from Limassol for the Trabzonspor clash.
The Turkish outfit have had the edge in their previous meetings with Cypriot sides, with a record of two victories, one draw and one defeat, but they have never managed to celebrate in Cyprus.
In 2005-2006 they were eliminated by Anorthosis in the Champions League qualifiers, while in the following season they managed to overcome APOEL 2-1 on aggregate in the Europa League playoffs.
After a 1-1 draw in Nicosia, they won 1-0 at the Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadyumu in Trabzon.

Cyprus Weekly

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