The reigning champions of Cyprus and Luxembourg meet in Nicosia as APOEL and F91 Dudelange get their Group A campaigns under way.
Article top media content
The reigning champions of Cyprus and Luxembourg meet in Nicosia as APOEL and F91 Dudelange get their Group A campaigns under way. The visitors have made an immediate return to this stage of the competition following last season's debut, whereas their hosts are making their fourth appearance at this juncture.
• The clubs have been paired once before in UEFA competition, APOEL defeating Dudelange 1-0 both home and away in the second qualifying round of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League. It was the first time Dudelange had lost both games in a two-legged European tie for five years, and they have not done so since.
• Those are APOEL's only previous encounters with opposition from Luxembourg and Dudelange's sole experience against a Cypriot club.
• Cypriot champions a record 28 times, APOEL made it seven national titles in a row with last season's triumph, which came at the end of a campaign in which they were absent from Europe in the autumn for the first time in six years having lost their UEFA Europa League play-off against Astana on penalties.
• APOEL failed to reach the knockout phase in their first two UEFA Europa League group participations (in 2013/14 and 2015/16) but made it all the way to the round of 16 on their most recent appearance, in 2016/17, having topped a section containing Olympiacos, Young Boys and Astana.
• This season, having comfortably eliminated Montenegro's Sutjeska in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round (1-0 a, 3-0 h), APOEL ensured a return to European group stage football by overturning a first-leg 1-2 home defeat against Qarabağ in the next round with a 2-0 second-leg victory in new coach Thomas Doll's first match at the helm. They were then defeated 2-0 on aggregate by Ajax in the play-offs (0-0 h, 0-2 a) to move into the UEFA Europa League.
• That home defeat by Qarabağ ended APOEL's five-match winning run in UEFA matches at their own stadium. Their record in Nicosia in UEFA Europa League group games is W5 D1 L3, with victories in each of the last three.
• The premier force in Luxembourg since the turn of the millennium, Dudelange won their 15th national championship last season to make it four in a row. They also shone in continental competition, becoming the first club from Luxembourg to reach a European group stage when they beat CFR Cluj home and away in the UEFA Europa League play-offs. They lost their first five group games before bowing out with a 0-0 draw at home to Real Betis.
• Like last season, Dudelange lost their UEFA Champions League first qualifying round tie – albeit only on away goals to Valletta (2-2 h, 1-1 a) – but once again impressed in the UEFA Europa League preliminaries, eliminating Shkëndija of North Macedonia and Estonia's Nõmme Kalju before seeing off Ararat-Armenia on penalties in the play-offs.
• Although Dudelange lost 2-1 in Armenia last time out, it was their first away defeat in seven European qualifying matches; they had been victorious in their previous four on the road, including this term at both Shkëndija (2-1) and Kalju (1-0). Conversely, they lost all three away fixtures in last season's group stage, scoring three goals but conceding 13.
Links and trivia
• APOEL and Dudelange are their respective countries' sole representatives in Europe this autumn.
• A gifted attacking midfielder who played for both East Germany and the unified German national side, scoring a total of eight goals in 47 full internationals, Thomas Doll won two Oberliga titles with BFC Dynamo and later plied his trade in both the Bundesliga and Serie A, where he spent three seasons at Lazio. Doll hit the ground running as a coach with former club Hamburg, but was less successful at Borussia Dortmund before he reasserted his credentials during a five-year spell in Hungary with Ferencváros. He was appointed APOEL coach in August 2019.
• Former Belgian international Bertrand Crasson stepped into the breach at Dudelange ahead of matchday one after experienced Belgian coach Emilio Ferrera brought his short reign to an end on 17 September. Ferrera had been in charge for just three months as successor to Dino Toppmöller, who led Dudelange into the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League group stage. A defender during his playing days, Crasson won 26 caps for Belgium and appeared at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, while also enjoying two lengthy stints at Anderlecht either side of two years in Italy with Napoli. He joined Dudelange's coaching staff in September 2019, swiftly finding himself in temporary charge following Ferrara's departure.