APOEL will be in the draw for the Champions League group stage on Thursday evening after scrapping out a 0-0 draw away to Slavia Prague on Wednesday night.
Leading 2-0 from the first leg in Nicosia, Giorgos Donis’ men withstood a barrage of first half attacks from the Czech hosts before eventually weathering the storm after the interval to effectively shut out any hopes Slavia had of overturning the deficit.
Players, staff members and the 500 fans burst into celebration at the final whistle at Prague’s Eden Arena on Wednesday night. APOEL had previously eliminated Luxembourg’s Dudelange and Romania’s Viitorul earlier in the qualifying campaign.
APOEL have reached the group stages of the Champions League for the fourth time in their history. Donis was the last coach to take APOEL into the group stages and he returned barely a month ago to repeat the trick in pretty emphatic style, given his side’s sluggish start in this summer’s qualifiers.
“I am delighted because I will be in the Champions League for the second time with this team”, said Donis after the game.
“It is never easy to take over a team halfway through a qualifying campaign. But returning back to this club was, for me at least, like coming back home. So adapting was never an issue. When you have players that are disciplined and pour their heart and soul onto the pitch, then you have the potential to do great things.”
When asked which teams he wanted to avoid in the draw, Donis pointed out PSG and Barcelona – the two European giants his APOEL side faced back in 2014. The Greek coach also wanted to avoid a possible meeting with Greek champions Olympiacos – who APOEL defeated twice in the Europa League last season.
“Right now, we have to work on fixing a few things within the squad so that we can be competitive in the Champions League and in our own domestic campaign. Slavia were a very tough side and they attacked us from all fronts. But we defended very well and all the players did their job properly.”
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APOEL will be situated in the Pot 4 of the Champions League draw – which takes place at 7pm (Cyprus time) in Monaco.
The Cypriot champions will make €20million from actually reaching the group stages while the Nicosia club could make an additional €12.7m in bonuses, ticket sales and the market pool share of television rights.
APOEL will also earn €1.5m for every win and €500,000 for every draw.
APOEL had first reached the group stages of the Champions League back in 2009 where they played Atletico Madrid (0-0, 1-1), Chelsea (0-1, 2-2) and Porto (1-2, 0-1).
They returned to the competition in 2011 where they had shock run to the quarterfinals and a string of impressive performances against Zenit (2-1, 0-0), Shakhtar (1-1, 0-2), Porto (1-1, 2-1) and Lyon (0-1, 1-0 4-3 pens) before finally losing 8-2 on aggregate to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid.
In 2014 under Donis, APOEL faced PSG (0-1, 0-1), Lionel Messi’s Barcelona (0-1, 0-4) and Ajax (1-1, 0-4).
Last season, APOEL reached the Last 16 of the Europa League during an impressive campaigns that featured wins over Olympiacos, Young Boys, Astana and Athletic Bilbao.