Apoel Nicosia of Cyprus will have their hands full on March 27 when they host Spanish giants Real Madrid at the Neo GSP Stadium in the first leg of their Champions League tie. Nicosia is the first Cypriot team to make it this far in the Champions League and they’re hoping to pull off an upset to reach the semi-finals.
Nicosia manager Ivan Jovanovic said his team will have to play a perfect game if it hopes to take a lead in the first leg. Madrid currently leads the Spanish La Liga’s Primera Division by six points over Barcelona after hammering Real Sociedad 5-1 at home at the Bernabeu on the weekend. They have nine games left in the season to take the title away from last year’s winners. If they can hold off Barcelona it’ll be their first league title since 2008. Nicosia played to a 0-0 draw with Omonia on the weekend and is in third place in the Cypriot League.
Jovanovic of Serbia said his team’s really against it in this tie and his players will have to pay attention to Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo. When Ronaldo scored on the weekend he reached 100 goals in the Spanish league quicker than anybody in history. He managed to score 101 goals in 92 games with a pair on Saturday. Real Madrid’s Ferenc Puskas held the previous record with 100 goals in 105 matches.
Madrid manager Jose Mourinho of Portugal admitted that his club were the heavy favourites going into this tie, but Nicosia shouldn’t be taken too lightly. He added that he has a feeling it’s going to be a tough game, but thinks his team should be able to win at home at the Bernabeu even if they should lose or draw in Cyprus.
Mourinho will have to play the game without Xabi Alonso as he’s suspended. He’s expected to use Sami Khedira, Esteban Granero and Fabio Coentrao in the midfield. Both Mesut Ozil and Pepe are back from suspensions. Also, Ricardo Carvalho, Angel Di Maria, Jose Callejon, and Lassana Diarra are all out of action due to injuries. Nicosia will be without Gustavo Manduca as he’s suspended and his place could be taken by Ivan Trickovski. William Boaventura should be able to play after suffering an injury on the weekend.
This is now the third consecutive season that Nicosia has faced opponents from Spain in European competition. They played Getafe last season in the Europa League and Atletico Madrid two years ago in the Champions League. Real Madrid has won seven and drawn one in their eight Champions League games so far this year. In addition, Mourinho has won every quarter-final game he’s managed, with Inter Milan, Chelsea, and Porto. It’s also Madrid’s 29th appearance in the quarterfinals which is a tournament record. They’ve only lost six times.
Betting Odds for APOEL vs Real Madrid
Look for Nicosia to put up a strong effort, but ultimately lose a close decision.
PaddyPower shows the current odds of a Nicosia win at 10/1 with a Madrid victory at 1/3 and a draw at 4/1. Get some free bets via the banner on the right.