APOEL boss Giorgos Donis says he expecting his players to play ‘beyond their limits’ when they take on European Champions Real Madrid in their Champions League group game opener tonight.
The Cypriot champions arrived in Madrid on Tuesday ahead of the big game at the Bernabeu where they will face superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and Gareth Bale.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Donis – who arrived in the summer to take over the Nicosia club for a second time – said he and his players were already happy to have been back in the group stages.
“In the Champions League you face difficult challenges, but we’re going to have to face it from a different point of view. We’re happy and satisfied to have arrived at this stage and need to enjoy it. We need to respect ourselves.”
“I consider these games help our side grow. We believe in our team, our players. We’re fully aware of how difficult the match is. I want to see my players tomorrow playing beyond their limits.”
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He added: “Football is not like basketball, where 99% of the time the better side wins. In football things can happen. It’s going to be a big ask for our players. We’re playing against really excellent players and we know that in order to achieve something we have to fight together in a collective way. Football is a team game and we have to play as a team.”
Donis will be without the injured Zhivkov Milanov, Facundo Bertoglio, Nicholas Ioannou and George Efrem while Real boss Zinedine Zidane will not have Karim Benzema at his disposal.
APOEL and Real had faced each other in a famous 2012 Champions League quarter-final tie with Real winning 3-0 in Nicosia and 5-2 at the Bernabeu Stadium.
Only Nuno Morais and Nektarios Alexandrou remain from the APOEL side that made history by going that far in the competition.
The game will kick-off at 9.45pm and will be aired on Cytavision Sports 1.