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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.

Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde
Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde ©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.

APOEL finished four points clear in Group B
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 scored six goals in the group stage
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, as well as defenders Roberto Lago and Iñaki Astiz and forward David Barral.

• 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).

Suspended: none.
Misses next match if booked: Aritz Aduriz (Athletic), Nuno Morais, Pieros Sotirou (APOEL).

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.

UEFA makes new donation of €100,000 to ICRC
UEFA will mark a decade of helping Afghan landmine victims on Wednesday, when Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos presents a cheque for €100,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"I would like to pay tribute to the ICRC, who have been working relentlessly to help landmine victims, many of whom are children. Their programme in Afghanistan, which has been in place for several years, shows that football can offer real hope in challenging times," said UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin.

"I am glad that UEFA can help this cause, and that the sport we love can have a positive impact on the rehabilitation process of so many people in this troubled region," he added.

The donation supports the ICRC's physical rehabilitation programme for landmine victims and other people with disabilities in Afghanistan – providing artificial limbs, physiotherapy, vocational training and access to the rehabilitation centre's football team. About a third of patients are children.

Sergio Ramos will present the donation before his side's UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match against Napoli at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid on 15 February.

"The people benefiting from the ICRC programme in Afghanistan are an inspiration to us, as they set an example of how to approach life in a positive manner despite the problems that they face," the Real Madrid captain said.

Sergio Ramos was chosen to hand over the cheque after receiving the most votes in UEFA.com's Team of the Year, which was published in January, and added that it is "a privilege" to be "a source of motivation" to so many people.

"They don't stop dreaming, and they fight to make their dreams come true. As key figures in this sport, it's a true privilege for us footballers to be a source of motivation in their day-to-day lives, and to help them out," he said.

Over the course of a partnership lasting almost 20 years, UEFA has donated in excess of €3.5m to the ICRC to help disadvantaged people around the globe. Meanwhile, over 7 million votes were cast in selecting the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year 2016. More information on the award is available online at en.toty.uefa.com.