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Astana v APOEL background

Astana have the opportunity to become the first Kazakh side to make it to the UEFA Champions League group stage as they prepare to welcome APOEL.

Roger Cañas celebrates a qualifying goal for Astana
Roger Cañas celebrates a qualifying goal for Astana ©Dinara Baikadamova

Astana are on a mission to become the first Kazakh side to make it to the UEFA Champions League group stage as they take on play-off specialists APOEL.

Previous meetings
• The teams are meeting for the first time. It is Astana's first encounter with Cypriot opponents and APOEL's first experience of Kazakhstani action.

Form guide
• This is just the second UEFA tie to pitch together sides from Kazakhstan and Cyprus. In the first qualifying round of the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League, Omonia got the better of Irtysh Pavlodar, winning 2-1 in Kazakhstan after a 0-0 first-leg draw in Nicosia. APOEL's Stathis Aloneftis featured for Omonia as a 76th-minute substitute in that game.

• Cyprus won 2-1 against Kazakhstan in a Limassol friendly in 2004 – the nations' only meeting at senior international level. APOEL's Constantinos Charalambides was one of the scorers.

• Astana are making their UEFA Champions League debut this season and eliminated Maribor (SVN) and HJK Helsinki (FIN) to reach the play-offs. APOEL have won just one of their four qualifying games this term (W1 D2 L1).

• Astana could become the first team from Kazakhstan to play in the UEFA Champions League group stage. Shakhter Karagandy became the first Kazakh representative in a UEFA group stage when they got to the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League group stage.

• No Kazakh club has ever won a UEFA play-off tie; Shakhter moved into the UEFA Europa League group stage in 2013/14 after losing a UEFA Champions League play-off against Celtic, while Astana crashed 7-0 on aggregate to Villarreal after progressing to last year's UEFA Europa League play-offs.

• APOEL have won all their UEFA Champions League play-offs to date, overcoming FC København (2009/10), Wisła Kraków (2011/12) and Aalborg (2014/15) to advance to the group phase.

Links and trivia
• Astana and Nicosia are 3,500km apart, meaning these sides have, by some distance, the longest journeys of all the teams in this season's UEFA Champions League play-offs.

• APOEL are attempting to secure a fourth UEFA Champions League group stage appearance. Just one other Cypriot outfit – Anorthosis Famagusta in 2008/09 – have competed at this elite level.

• The first leg takes place the day after Astana's Bosnian defender Marin Aničić turns 26.

• Astana boss Stanimir Stoilov briefly coached APOEL's domestic rivals Anorthosis in 2011.

• Astana's Slovenian defender Branko Ilić was also at Anorthosis in the 2012/13 campaign.

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