APOEL FC midfielder Hélio Pinto told UEFA.com he is excited by the UEFA Champions League round of 16 draw against Olympique Lyonnais, and joined goalkeeper Dionisios Chiotis in underlining that the Nicosia outfit have not reached this stage simply to make up the numbers.
APOEL became the first Cypriot team to make it through the UEFA Champions League group stage and 27-year-old Hélio Pinto is sufficiently pleased with the tie that achievement has earned his side. "We knew before the draw that whoever we faced would be strong opponents," he said.
"We had no preferences about who we wanted to play.
Lyon are a fantastic team with great players, a great stadium, passionate fans and plenty of Champions League experience. We all saw what they did in their group, which also featured Real Madrid."
Despite all Lyon's pedigree, though, the Portuguese midfielder is not about to give up hope of progressing to the quarter-finals. "It will be really great for us to play against them and we will all be looking forward to it, but we are also footballers and we play to win, as we showed in the group stage.
"No player goes out on to the pitch to lose," he added. "It is our dream to be playing in these games and we will give 100% in both matches, just like we did in our previous games."
Goalkeeper Chiotis was similarly defiant, with APOEL bidding to be the first Cypriot club to avoid defeat against French opponents in what will be the sixth and seventh meetings between teams from the two nations. The previous five featured four French wins – including a 10-1 success for AJ Auxerre at Nea Salamis FC in July 1997 – and one draw.
"At first glance, it's a tough draw," Chiotis said. "Lyon may not be the Lyon of old but they are still a very strong side with a tradition of consistency in Europe. However, for us, there were no easy opponents. Even Basel, who some people wanted us to get, eliminated Manchester United."
The 34-year-old will nonetheless go into the tie bursting with belief, and added: "
We have not put a cap on how far we can go. We are an unpredictable side so we can only hope that things continue to go well for us."
As for Lyon coach Rémi Garde, he felt that APOEL represented a favourable draw for his team, unpredictable or not, but sounded a note of caution by saying: "When other sides have drawn Lyon and felt they were favourites, it's been an extra motivation for us. It will surely be the same for APOEL.
"They finished above Porto and Zenit in their group, and it is not easy to play against a team that defends well.
Everyone expects us to go through, but let's not put the cart before the horse."
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