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APOEL primed for Viitorul

APOEL will take on Romanian champions Viitorul – who are owned and managed by legendary ex-player Gheorghe Hagi – in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.

The first leg will take place on Tuesday in Romania, with the second leg to take place a week later in Nicosia’s GSP Stadium.

On Wednesday, APOEL secured a second 1-0 win over Dudelange of Luxembourg to move into the next round of the Champions League qualifiers, but it was a far from impressive victory for Mario Been.

Brazilian-born Belgian striker Igor de Camargo scored the only goal of the game after converting a penalty on 41 minutes that had been won by Tommy Oar.

Facundo Bertoglio had also hit the post for the Cypriot champions, while APOEL keeper Boy Waterman had been called into action on several occasions to deny the hosts.

APOEL had also won the first leg 1-0 in Nicosia and are now expected to face stiffer opposition against Viitorul – who were confirmed as their country’s top-flight champions for the first time in a ruling by sport’s highest tribunal last week.

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The Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said it had rejected an appeal from Viitorul’s rivals FCSB, formerly known as Steaua Bucharest, who had protested over the rules of the competition and claimed they were the rightful champions.

Hagi, nicknamed “The Maradona of the Carpathians” and considered Romania’s all-time greatest player, founded Viitorul in 2009 and still owns the club, known for nurturing young talent in the Black Sea state.

APOEL are looking to reach the group stages of the Champions League for a fourth time.

Last year, under current Leeds United boss Thomas Christiansen, they were eliminated by FC Copenhagen in the Champions League playoffs, but then went on to reach the Last of the Europa League during an impressive run which also saw wins over Olympiacos (twice) and Athletic Club.

Last night, AEK Larnaca, Apollon Limassol and AEL were in Europa League action against Cork City, Zaria Baltia and Proges respectively.

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