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APOEL to face Viitorul if they avoid shock

APOEL have been handed a tough Champions League third qualifying round opponent after being pitted against Romanian champions Viitorul, should the Cypriot champions manage to avoid an upset against Dudelange next week.

Mario Been’s side currently hold a 1-0 aggregate lead over their Luxembourg opponents but failed to impress in their slender victory in Nicosia earlier this week in a game which saw the underdogs miss a host of chances.

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APOEL – who are looking to book their place in the Champions League group stages for a fourth time – will have even tougher opposition in Viitorul but will at least play the first leg in Romania if they advance.

Viitorul are currently owned and managed by Romanian football legend Gheorghe Hagi and clinched their first ever league title last season.

The team is mostly made of Romanians – from the club’s owner academy – with a few foreign players including former Doxa Katokopia midfielder Dani Lopez.

Viitorul were confirmed as their country’s top flight champions for the first time in a ruling by sport’s highest tribunal on Thursday (July 13).

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.

The two teams finished level on 44 points but Viitorul took the title by having the better head-to-head record during the six-team final stage of the championship.

FCSB argued that the head-to-head record should have also taken into account the two matches played in the regular championship, in which case they would have won the title.

CAS said in a statement that it had “confirmed the standings that were ratified by the Romanian Football Federation’s Executive Committee on June 5.”

“Accordingly, FC Viitorul is confirmed as the first-placed team and FCSB is confirmed as the second-placed team.”

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.

League route

FCSB (ROU) v Viktoria Plzeň (CZE)
Nice (FRA) v Ajax (NED)
Dynamo Kyiv (UKR) v Young Boys (SUI)
AEK Athens (GRE) v CSKA Moskva (RUS)
Club Brugge (BEL) v İstanbul Başakşehir (TUR)

Champions route

Slavia Praha (CZE) v BATE Borisov (BLR)/Alashkert (ARM)
Spartaks Jūrmala (LVA)/Astana (KAZ) v IFK Mariehamn (FIN)/Legia Warszawa (POL)
Zrinjski (BIH)/Maribor (SVN) v FH Hafnarfjördur (ISL)/Víkingur (FRO)
Žilina (SVK)/København (DEN) v Malmö (SWE)/Vardar (MKD)
Linfield (NIR)/Celtic (SCO) v Dundalk (IRL)/Rosenborg (NOR)

Hapoel Beer-Sheva (ISR)/Honvéd (HUN) v Žalgiris Vilnius (LTU)/Ludogorets (BUL)
Viitorul (ROU) v APOEL (CYP)/Dudelange (LUX)
Hibernians (MLT)/Salzburg (AUT) v Rijeka (CRO)/TNS (WAL)
Qarabağ (AZE)/Samtredia (GEO) v Sheriff (MDA)/Kukësi (ALB)
Partizan (SRB)/Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) v Olympiacos (GRE)

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