Trabzon meets Apollon Limassol, on the verge of knockout rounds
Legia Warsaw's Polish defender Tomasz Brzyski (R) vies for the ball with Trabzonspor's Brazilian forward Paulo Henrique during the UEFA Europa League football match Legia Warszawa vs Trabzonspor AS on Novemver 7, 2013 in Warsaw. AFP PHOTOTrabzonspor is on the verge of securing a place in the Europa League round of 32, as it meets Apollon Limassol tonight.
The Black Sea Storm, which leads its Group J by 10 points, will qualify if it gets a point in the match. The Greek Cypriot side, however, needs nothing less than a win to survive in the competition, after getting four points in four matches.
Elsewhere in the group, Legia Warsaw, which is the only team in the competition without a point or a goal, hosts Lazio. The Italians will also qualify if Apollon fails to win, though the Rome club can clinch qualification itself by inflicting a fifth straight defeat on Legia.
Matches between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides have staged heated exchanges in the past, played in the shadow of the problems over the Mediterranean islands between the two sides. Turkish clubs, such as the Galatasaray women’s volleyball team or Pınar Karşıyaka men’s basketball side, were objected to hostile reception in matches played in Greek Cyprus a few years ago. However, the meetings have been far from hostile in the last two seasons. Fenerbahçe’s AEL Limassol visit was a peaceful one and a group of fans unveiled a banner with a fraternity message, with a picture of Lefter Küçükantonyadis, the Turkish club’s legendary player of Istanbul Greek ancestry.
Trabzonspor’s match against Apollon Limassol was also an uneventful one and there are signs that tonight’s match will be played in a peaceful atmosphere as well.
Yesterday, Apollon Limassol players, coaching staff and fans paid a visit to Sumela Monastery in Trabzon. Fans and players gathered outside the monastery and had memorial photographs together.
Turkish authorities have reopened the monastery to Orthodox Christians to have an annual ritual as of 2010.
The game at the Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium will start at 8 p.m.
With just two games to go in the UEFA Europa League group stage, there are still 16 qualification places available.
In Group A, Swansea meets Valencia and Kuban takes on St. Gallen. Three successive victories have taken Valencia through to the knockout phase with two games to spare, and Swansea will join the Spanish club in the last 32 if it completes the double over it in south Wales. Kuban and St. Gallen must win to remain in contention – a draw would mean Swansea going through regardless of their result.
Another English team, Wigan Athletic will join Group D leader Rubin Kazan in the round of 32, if it can beat Belgium’s Zulte Waregem.
In Group F, Bordeaux plays against Eintracht Frankfurt and APOEL hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Eintracht requires a win in France to be certain of going through to the round of 32. A victory would also suffice for Maccabi, while a score draw would also guarantee its safe passage unless Bordeaux beats Frankfurt – the only result that will keep the French club in contention. APOEL would move into second place with a victory.
In the Group H battle, home victories for Liberec and Sevilla, against Freiburg and Estoril, who are yet to register a win, will ensure both clubs’ further participation in the spring. Indeed, the Spanish side can afford to draw and still secure its passage, while a draw for Liberec may also suffice if Estoril fails to win in Seville.
Group I leader Betis will make sure of its place in the round of 32 as group winners with a victory at Lyon.
A Lyon win would take them through as long as Guimarães do not win away at Rijeka. Rijeka will be eliminated unless it takes all three points.
Greece’s PAOK needs just one point to make it through to the knockout phase when it visits Kazakhstan’s Shakhter Karagandy in Group L. Similarly, the Netherlands’ AZ Alkmaar will just need to avoid a defeat against Maccabi Haifa to be through.