AEK Larnaca v Leverkusen facts

AEK Larnaca will look to bow out by continuing their unbeaten run, with Leverkusen aiming to finish first in Group A.

AEK celebrate their matchday five win at Zürich
AEK celebrate their matchday five win at Zürich ©AFP/Getty Images

Although their hopes of a round of 32 berth ended after matchday four, AEK Larnaca are on a run of three matches undefeated in UEFA Europa League Group A and will hope to stretch that to four as they close their campaign against already-qualified Bayer Leverkusen, who need a win to guarantee their progress as section winners.

• AEK won 2-1 at FC Zürich on matchday five to add to a pair of draws against Ludogorets Razgrad, but the victory came too late to keep them in contention for qualification after they had lost their opening two fixtures.

• Leverkusen needed a late equaliser from Mitchell Weiser to draw 1-1 at home to Ludogorets last time out, but they lead the section with ten points, one more than fellow qualifiers Zürich. They will be confirmed in top spot if they win in Cyprus, or if the Swiss side fail to do likewise in their final group fixture in Bulgaria.

Highlights: Leverkusen 4-2 AEK Larnaca
Highlights: Leverkusen 4-2 AEK Larnaca

Previous meetings
• Leverkusen overcame AEK 4-2 at home on matchday two, three second-half goals from substitutes (two from Lucas Alario, one from Julian Brandt) carrying them to victory after the visitors had taken a first-half lead.

• This is only the German club's second visit to Cyprus in UEFA competition, the first having come in the 1995 UEFA Intertoto Cup when they won 2-0 away to Nea Salamis Famagusta.

• AEK's only previous fixture at home to German opposition does not hold happy memories as they succumbed 0-5 to Schalke in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League group stage – the club’s heaviest home defeat in Europe.

Form guide
AEK
• AEK qualified for this season's UEFA Europa League by winning the Cypriot Cup for the second time – and first in 14 years – after coming from behind to defeat Apollon Limassol 2-1 in the final. They are in Europe for the fourth successive season and in the UEFA Europa League group stage for the second time, having lost successive play-offs to Czech opposition in the last two campaigns. They came unbeaten through three qualifying ties with Dundalk, Sturm Graz and Trenčín to make the grade this term.

Watch AEK stun Zürich on matchday five
Watch AEK stun Zürich on matchday five

• AEK won one, drew one and lost one of their three home games in the 2011/12 group stage and finished bottom of a section also comprising Steaua Bucureşti and Maccabi Haifa, registering five points.

• Although they have taken just one point from their two home group fixtures this season, the Larnaca-based club's matchday one defeat against Zürich (0-1) ended a seven-match unbeaten European run in Cyprus (W6 D1), during which they did not concede a goal, scoring 20 times themselves including 12 in this term's qualifying phase. AEK have not conceded more than once in any European home game since that 5-0 rout by Schalke in 2011/12 – a run of 15 matches.

Leverkusen
• Leverkusen booked direct access to the UEFA Europa League group stage by finishing fifth in last season's Bundesliga.

• This is the Rhinelanders' third UEFA Europa League group stage participation, the previous two, in 2010/11 and 2012/13, having likewise extended into the knockout phase, where they also competed in 2015/16 after transferring over from the UEFA Champions League. The club's two UEFA Cup group stage campaigns, in 2006/07 and 2007/08, were also successful, both ending in the quarter-finals.

• The Werkself have lost only two of their last nine European away games (W3 D4), though the five goals they have registered on their travels in this group stage – three in Bulgaria, two in Switzerland – match the total number they managed in the seven previous such encounters combined

See Leverkusen's matchday five draw
See Leverkusen's matchday five draw

Links and trivia
• AEK's Macedonian striker Ivan Tričkovski, who scored the late winner on matchday five in Zurich, registered six goals in this season's UEFA Europa League qualifying phase, a tally bettered by only two players – Aedeleke Akinyemi of Ventspils and Eirik Hestad of Molde, who both scored seven.

• AEK's added-time consolation strike in their matchday two defeat at Leverkusen was scored by substitute Dimitris Raspas, who became, at 17 years and 186 days, the fifth youngest goalscorer in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final. The record still belongs to Romelu Lukaku, aged 16 years and 218 days when he scored for Anderlecht against Ajax in the inaugural 2009/10 season.

• Leverkusen lifted the UEFA Cup in 1987/88 and are one of six former winners of the trophy in this season's group stage, along with Sevilla, Chelsea, Zenit, Anderlecht and Eintracht Frankfurt.

• Although they go into matchday six on top of the section, Leverkusen have conceded more goals in the first five fixtures (eight) than any of their three Group A rivals.

The coaches
• A former Spanish international full-back who spent the vast majority of his career in Bilbao at Athletic Club, Andoni Iraola did not finish playing until November 2016, after 18 months of MLS football with New York City, and had no major coaching experience when he was announced as AEK's new manager in June 2018 in succession to compatriot Imanol Idiakez. He was a stalwart of the Athletic side that finished runners-up to Atlético Madrid in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League, and appeared in three Copa del Rey finals.

• A former German international striker, Heiko Herrlich began his professional playing career at Leverkusen, with whom he won the German Cup, before going on to star for Borussia Mönchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund, winning the UEFA Champions League with the latter in 1997. He took over as Leverkusen coach in June 2017 following spells with German youth selections and in lower-league football and led the Rhinelanders to a fifth-place Bundesliga finish in his debut campaign.

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