AEL Limassol FC coach Ivaylo Petev is predicting "a very good day" for his side when they host Tottenham Hotspur FC in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League play-off tie next Thursday.
The Cypriot club – who on the final day of last season missed out on their seventh league title when they lost to rivals APOEL FC – started their 2014/15 European campaign with an eye-catching 1-0 home victory over FC Zenit. Though they were beaten 3-0 in the second leg of that UEFA Champions League third qualifying round affair, confidence has not been affected and Petev says it will be a key factor when the teams go head-to-head in Larnaca.
"I believe 21 August will be a very good day for AEL," he told UEFA.com. "There is belief and it is vital that there is in the squad. We managed to beat a club like Zenit in our previous tie in Europe and were then unlucky to go out against them because we played with ten men for some 70 minutes [in the second leg]. But that is now behind us."
It will not be the first time the sides have met, the north London club having previously visited the Mediterranean island in 1968 to play a series of friendlies. Thousands of Cypriots flocked to gravel-pitch stadiums around the country to catch a glimpse of the likes of Jimmy Greaves, Terry Venables and Alan Gilzean.
They were not disappointed. Tottenham swept aside all-comers during their short stay in the sunshine, including then champions AEL, running out 7-1 victors after goals from Gilzean (3), Cliff Jones (2), Jimmy Robertson and Dennis Bond. Spurs returned to Cyprus during their 2007/08 UEFA Cup campaign to take on Anorthosis Famagusta FC, drawing 1-1 in Larnaca after a 6-1 first-leg success at White Hart Lane.
"They are a massive club and it is crucial we minimise our mistakes against them because they know how to punish every little error," added Petev. "The truth is that this was a very difficult draw for us and we were not so lucky. But, that aside, it is very important that we are ready for the first game and play well."
Captain Marios Nikolaou, meanwhile, appreciates the odds are stacked against him and his team-mates as AEL seek to reach the group stage for the second time, having first done so in 2012. "This game will be an experience for us all and a challenge," said the midfielder.
"We know they are a great side but we certainly don't fear them – we will look them in the eye. We will need to be at our best. We were handed a tough draw, but that is football and we need to be ready."
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