APOEL Nicosia have been
besieged by fans desperate for tickets for Tuesday's Champions
League quarter-final first leg at home to Real Madrid but even
the club's most ardent supporters know this will be the toughest
test yet in their fairytale season.
Record nine-times winners Real are big favourites to end
APOEL's stunning run in becoming the first Cypriot side to reach
the last eight of any European competition, not that the APOEL
faithful care about the threat of defeat.
Chairman Phivos Erotocritou has apologised after thousands
waited for tickets on Thursday but only a handful managed to get
their hands on the prized asset.
"It is truly shameful what happened, with the hassle we
imposed on so many thousands of people with a wrong decision we
made," Erotocritou was quoted as saying by the Cyprus Mail.
"I won't try to justify the unjustifiable. We have
responsibility, we did not handle this matter with the tickets
the way we should have. I truly apologise and say sorry to
The scramble for tickets follows APOEL's strong showings in
the 23,000-capacity GSP Stadium during the competition with a
motley mix of journeymen from around the world really making
However, a goalless draw against city rivals Omonia Nicosia
on Friday suggested APOEL are not in the best of form.
Even though Omonia played the whole second half with 10 men,
APOEL failed to create any good chances with their mind probably
on Tuesday's game.
Coach Ivan Jovanovic will be without suspended Brazilian
Gustavo Manduca, whose early goal was vital in the last-16
triumph against Lyon three weeks ago.
The Serbian will have the rest of the squad at his disposal.
APOEL fans are banking on Greek goalkeeper Dionisios
Chiotis, whose heroics have been a crucial part of their dogged
defence this term and who was in the AEK Athens team which drew
twice against Real in 2002.
Real return to European competition after a poor run in La
Liga when two straight draws slashed their lead over
second-placed Barcelona to six points and coach Jose Mourinho
was sent off in a bad-tempered 1-1 stalemate at Villarreal last
The controversial Portuguese, dismissed for criticising the
referee, is due to speak to the media for the first time since
then at Monday's news conference in Nicosia.
The last time he visited Cyprus, his then Inter Milan side
drew 3-3 against Anorthosis Famagusta in the 2008 group stage,
so he knows not to underestimate Cypriot football.
Mourinho was banned from the bench when Real crushed Real
Sociedad 5-1 in La Liga on Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim
Benzema each scoring twice and Gonzalo Higuain also finding the
Real will be without influential midfielder Xabi Alonso on
Tuesday after the Spain international picked up a yellow card in
the round of 16 second-leg win against CSKA Moscow.
With Lassana Diarra injured, Esteban Granero is likely to
slot in alongside Sami Khedira in the holding midfield role.
APOEL: 22-Dionisios Chiotis; 7-Savvas Poursaitides, 3-Paulo
Jorge, 6-Marcelo Oliveira, 98-William Boaventura;
10-Constantinos Charalambides, 23-Helio Pinto, 26-Nuno Morais,
81-Marcinho, 8-Ailton; 11-Ivan Trickovski.
Real Madrid: 1-Iker Casillas; 17-Alvaro Arbeloa, 3-Pepe,
4-Sergio Ramos, 12-Marcelo; 6-Sami Khedira, 11-Esteban Granero;
10-Mesut Ozil, 8-Kaka, 7-Cristiano Ronaldo; 9-Karim Benzema.
Referee: Felix Brych (Germany).
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