Both APOEL and Apollon Limassol will be hoping to make history tonight by booking their places in the Europa League groups at the expense of Zulte Waregem and Nice respectively.
Paulo Sergio’s APOEL had played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Belgium following a late strike from Nektarios Alexandrou whilst, back in Nicosia, a second half brace from Gaston Sangoy handed Apollon a shock 2-0 aggregate lead over French side Nice.
Neither APOEL nor Apollon have ever reached the Europa League group stages although the Nicosia club have made two impressive appearances in the Champions League groups in 2009 and 2011 when they went as far as the quarterfinals.
Cyprus is also on course to have two teams playing in the Europa League for the first time.
“A very difficult game awaits us on Thursday [today],” the Cypriot international told the club’s official website.” Qualifying would be a dream for both sides and the incentives are also immense. We are fully focused on the task ahead and we all want to relive those special moments which we experienced in Europe a few years ago. This is our last chance to put APOEL back on the European map.”
He added: “We will give our all on the pitch and play with confidence and courage. I believe APOEL has what it takes to relive those special European nights.”
APOEL officials are expecting a capacity crowd tonight at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia.
Meanwhile, Apollon media officer Fanourios Constantinou believes it is imperative that the Limassol club score an away goal to further hamper any chances Nice have of overturning the 2-0 deficit from the first leg in Cyprus.
“We go into the game in confident mood and faith in our chances. We can book our place in the group stage provided we don’t lose concentration and stay focused. We know just how tough things will be for us in the game. We want to score a goal so as to increase our chances of going through. A 2-0 lead doesn’t guarantee us anything. They are a stronger side than us but not beyond beating. We are confident that we can grab a goal here in France.”
Speaking about the financial incentives should Christakis Christoforou’s Apollon reach the group stage for the first time in their history he said, “We will look into the financial gain from this competition after the game has finished.
“We can feel the excitement from the fans and that only spurs us on to do even better. Nice were the favourites heading into the tie although we have the upper hand now following the first leg in Nicosia.”