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APOEL FC forward Esteban Solari says he will not feel any special emotions on Tuesday when he takes on Real Madrid CF, a club with whom his brother Santiago spent five seasons as a player.
The Cypriot title holders face the biggest game in the island's football history when they welcome Madrid to a sold-out GSP Stadium for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final. Solari, APOEL's top scorer in the league, is aiming for his first goal in the competition proper and the Argentinian's family link to the Spanish club, where his elder sibling played between 2000 and 2005 and won this tournament in 2002, has certainly been at the front of his mind.
"I spoke to my brother and other members of my family after the draw," Solari said. "We spoke a bit about the history of the club and who they are. But that doesn't change my feelings about this tie with respects to my brother having played for them. I go into this game just like any other player in the team. We are confident and we believe in ourselves."
However, the 31-year-old former UD Almería striker added: "My brother is obviously a big supporter of Real and he will be hoping that they can go on to lift the trophy. But somehow, I believe there will be a piece of his heart rooting for my team tomorrow as well."
APOEL have been the surprise package of this season's competition, their progress aided by winning five of their seven home games. Coach Ivan Jovanović has been praised for creating a well-organised unit out of players deemed surplus to requirements by their previous clubs and others in the twilight of their careers. Even so, Solari warned Madrid that APOEL would not just be relying on a good result on Tuesday, given that they have only lost two away games in their unexpected run.
This first game is always important but we have shown in this competition that we are not the sort of side that solely relies on their home form," he said. "We will be looking at this tie against Real as a two-legged tie and not just solely focusing on our home game."
No Cypriot side have ever got so far in a major UEFA club competition before and Solari vowed to do all he could to please the huge numbers on the island glued to their televisions on Tuesday evening. "We respect Real very much," he said. "We know that they are a great side with quality players but we will need to be ready and to play with our hearts.
"We need to approach what will be a very difficult game with the same approach as in the previous games in this competition. It's a great challenge for us to be playing at such a level in such a competition and something that many of us may possibly only experience once in a lifetime."
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