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.
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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.
• 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.
• 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.