Coach Charalampos Christodoulou says AEL Limassol FC will be aiming to do everyone proud as they prepare to take on RSC Anderlecht in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-offs in Nicosia.
The club slipped under the radar last season to win their first Cypriot league title since 1968 and have carried their winning form into Europe, recording 1-0 wins home and away against FK Partizan in the third qualifying round. Christodoulou is calling on his players to go one step further by securing a place in the group stage.
"We have already achieved so much with our elimination of Partizan, which has secured our place in the UEFA Europa League regardless of the outcome of this tie," said the coach, who is without midfielder Monteiro due to suspension. "But we are not finished yet. We are hungry to succeed and go further in this competition.
We want to do something that will make our families, this club and all our fans so very proud of us."
Last season AEL's domestic rivals APOEL FC progressed from the second qualifying round to become the first Cypriot outfit to reach the competition's quarter-finals; Christodoulou knows simply overcoming Anderlecht will be a tall order. "There are no easy teams at this level. The fate of this tie will be decided over both legs and not just on the first night."
One player who needs no introduction to Anderlecht is Edwin Ouon who played against them five times during four years in the Belgian top flight. "They dominated everything in terms of trophies," the AEL defender remembered. "They have tremendous experience in UEFA competitions so we all know how good they are. They have always had good players and a good team. But we know the importance of this game and we're confident."
Anderlecht arrived early in Cyprus to get used to the temperatures on the island but John van den Brom believes AEL will pose the sterner test. "The biggest problem for us will be the opponent, not the heat," the Dutch coach said. "We're taking on a team that beat Partizan in both legs so we are very wary of them. We know they are well organised and very difficult opponents."
The Belgian side have not reached the group stage since 2006/07 and goalkeeper Silvio Proto acknowledges there will be no shortage of motivation. "This game is a case of revenge for all the years that Anderlecht missed out on this competition," said the 29-year-old, whose side will be without inured midfielder Ronald Vargas. "A lot of the players in the squad know what it's like to play in the Champions League. We will give everything to qualify for this competition again."
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