Athletic Club v APOEL background

Athletic Club are on a three-game winning streak at home in this season's UEFA Europa League as they welcome APOEL, fresh from a record-breaking group stage campaign.

Ernesto Valverde (Athletic Club)
©AFP/Getty Images

Athletic Club have won all three of their UEFA home games this season as they welcome APOEL, who are still looking for a first victory in what is their 15th fixture against Spanish opponents.

Previous meetings
• The clubs are meeting for the first time.

• In their only previous tie against a Cypriot side, Athletic (featuring current coach Ernesto Valverde as a player) lost 2-0 away to Anorthosis Famagusta in the 1994/95 UEFA Cup first round but rallied to win the return leg 3-0 as their visitors ended the game with nine men.

• APOEL are yet to win in 14 encounters with Spanish teams (W0 D5 L9). They have avoided defeat only once in seven trips to Spain, holding Atlético Madrid to a 0-0 draw in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Pieros Sotiriou (APOEL)
APOEL finished four points clear in Group B©AFP/Getty Images

Form guide
• APOEL set a new club (and national) record by accruing 12 points in this season's group stage; their previous best was nine, collected in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League.

• Losing finalists in this competition in 1977 and 2012, Athletic defeated Marseille in last season's round of 32, eventually succumbing to eventual winners Sevilla on penalties in the quarter-finals.

• UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists in 2011/12, APOEL have made it to the spring phase of the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League for the first time.

Links and trivia
• The journey from Nicosia to Bilbao is around 3,200km.

Aritz Aduriz (Athletic)
Aritz Aduriz scored six goals in the group stage©AFP/Getty Images

• Athletic's Aritz Aduriz and Zenit's Giuliano are the top scorers in this season's competition with six goals each; Aduriz was also the leading scorer in the 2015/16 edition with ten, breaking Alan Shearer's record to become the oldest top marksman in any edition of the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League – he was aged 35 years and 97 days on the day of the final.

• Aduriz is now six clear of Fernando Llorente as Athletic's all-time European top scorer, with 22 goals.

• APOEL boast Spanish talent in the form of goalkeeper Urko Pardo, defenders Roberto Lago and Iñaki Astiz and midfielder Andrea Orlandi.

• Pardo played under Athletic boss Ernesto Valverde at Olympiacos (2010–11).

• APOEL are one of eight domestic champions involved in the round of 32, along with Astra Giurgiu (ROU), Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL), København (DEN), Olympiacos (GRE), Hapoel Beer-Sheva (ISR), Legia Warszawa (POL) and Beşiktaş (TUR).

The coaches
• Valverde took charge of Athletic for a second time in June 2013, having led his old club from 2003 to 2005. The former forward later steered Espanyol to the 2007 UEFA Cup final, landed three Greek titles with Olympiacos and coached Villarreal and Valencia.

• APOEL's Danish-born coach Thomas Christiansen was once a trainee at Barcelona, playing in their 1992 UEFA Super Cup success, and also scored once in two appearances for Spain. He joined APOEL this summer after two promising seasons as AEK Larnaca boss.