APOEL will be looking to make more history in the Europa League on Thursday night as they aim to become the first Cypriot club to defeat Belgian opposition away as they take on Last 16 opponents Anderlecht.
The Cypriot champions have this season become the first team from the island to reach the knock-out round of Europe’s second-tier club competition.
Thomas Christiansen’s men – who will be missing key players for the crunch tie in Brussels – had lost the first leg in Nicosia 1-0 after Nicolae Stanciu’s first half strike. The Nicosia club had dominated the second half and missed several chances to snatch an equaliser but were missing suspended top scorer Pieros Sotiriou.
Although Sotiriou will return for the game on Thursday night in Brussels (CyBC 1/HD, 22.05), Christiansen will be without his regular midfielders Nuno Morais (suspended) and Vinicius (injured) while Roger Canas is cup-tied and is not eligible to play.
The problems don’t end there. Attacking-midfielder Facundo Bertoglio has just returned from injury and is reportedly not fit to withstand the 90 minute while speedy winger George Efrem is out injured while centre-back Inaki Astiz is also nursing a knock.
APOEL had previously stunned La Liga side Athletic Club to reach the Last 16 of the Europa League for the first time in their history but will now have an even tougher job to do against Anderlecht – who have never been eliminated at the hands of Cypriot opposition in three previous attempts.
APOEL famous reached the Champions League quarter-finals back in 2012 and have gone on their longest run in the Europa League this season too.