APOEL vs Astana has revenge written all over it, as the Kazakh side, Astana, eliminated APOEL last season in the UEFA Champions League playoffs. Astana defeated APOEL 2-1 on aggregate last season to earn a place in history, as the club became the first team from Kazakhstan to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage.
This year, the Scottish giants, Celtic, eliminated Astana in third round of the UEFA Champions League qualification stage. A strong showing against BATE Borisov in the Europa League playoff qualification stage, however, secured the Kazakh side a second straight berth in the group stage of a UEFA competition.
Managed by the Bulgarian, Stanimir Stoilov, Astana will be looking to build on last year’s UEFA Champions League group stage experience to become a club that can compete regularly with the big boys of European football.
Astana are currently first in the Kazakhstan Premier League (KPL) championship round—the KPL is played from spring to fall—and look determined to defend their league title against their closest rival Kairat Almaty.
Hence, it is likely that we will see Astana again in a European competition next season. For now, however, the focus will be on APOEL. In fact, the trip to Astana will be the shortest for UEFA’s easternmost club (read Astana’s Europa League preview here).
The games against APOEL will also be the most important, if Astana wants to get anything from Group B, which also includes Young Boys Bern and Olympiacos Piraeus. Only if Astana beats APOEL twice, and perhaps snatches points at home against the other two teams, will the Kazakhs have a chance to advance from the group stage.
The fact that Astana defeated APOEL in the playoffs of the Champions League last season means that a victory in Cyprus is distinct possibility. Astana will, however, have to do better than they did on Saturday when they were demolished 1-4 at home by Kairat Almaty.
Furthermore, APOEL are unbeaten in three European home fixtures this season and, therefore, Stoilov’s men will have to provide a much better performance then they did against Almaty on Sunday, when they kick off at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia against APOEL.
Waterman – Lago, Carlão, Astiz, Milanov – Vinicius, Morais, Orlandi – Vander, Sotiriou, Gianniotas
Manager: Thomas Christiansen
Eric – Beysebekov, Anicic, Lobvinenko, Engel – Maksimovic, Canas – Muzhikov, Nurgaliyev, Twumasi – Kabananga
Manager: Stanimir Stoilov