For the corresponding fixture preview I got a bit of stick from some APOEL fans for not taking them seriously as a team and for not bothering to do my research and find the English section of their club’s website. My justification was that they would not be around for much longer anyway, as they were just another one of those ‘placeholder’ teams, just there to make up the numbers. I was promised that we would see what APOEL were made of. We promptly beat them 1-0, and at the time of writing they have yet to win a game in the Champions League, recording just two points so far in draws against Athletico Madrid. No apologies necessary then my Cypriot friends.
Although we are in a bit of a lull in form at the moment following two nasty trips north – drawing against Blackburn before losing on penalties, and then of course losing at Manchester City – we sit four points clear at the top of Group D, safely through as leaders to the next round of the tournament, meaning that the visit from the side propping the rest up is ideal right now.
We are looking a little war-scarred prior to the midweek meeting though, with Daniel Sturridge, José Bosingwa, Alex, Salomon Kalou, and possibly even John Terry out of contention with various knocks. As the game is basically a dead rubber we should see some rotation within the squad, although with the side currently out of sorts it could be a dangerous tactic as it could further disrupt the team. Then again, it’s only APOEL isn’t it?
Youngsters in the squad include Jeffrey Bruma, Nikki Ahamed, Gael Kakuta, Fabio Borini and Daniel Philliskirk. Michael Essien is one yellow card away from a ban.
Having been politely directed to the link that says ‘English’ on APOEL’s website, I can tell you that the Cypriots recently went on an eight game winning streak in the league before drawing against Apollon Limassol, who have Junior Agogo on their books, which means that at one point Agogo was up against Nuno Morais. That’s the level they play at. APOEL will be missing Nectarious Alexandrou and possibly Christos Kontis, if that means anything to you. The Cypriot champions have only scored two goals in the Champions League so far, with Nenad Mirosavljevic netting against Athletico, while Porto’s Alvaro Pereira bagged an own goal to double APOEL’s tally.
The man charged with refereeing this titanic tussle is Italian Matteo Trefoloni, a wine trade whose hobbies include music and theatre. In an idea which the English FA may like to take on board one day, Trefoloni was invited to Russia in 2006 to ref the derby between CSKA Moscow and Lokomotiv Moscow.
As previously mentioned, the corresponding fixture ended in a 1-0 win for Chelsea, with Champions League specialist Nicolas Anelka scoring the only goal of the game, making it three out of six that he has scored in. Don’t expect fireworks in this one; don’t even expect entertainment as you may be disappointed. It will be like a lower league club coming to the Bridge and fighting for their lives while we torment them like a cat with a mouse. Long live the Champions League group stages.