AEL Limassol -v- LinfieldTue, Jul 17 2012
David Jeffrey will send his men out in the 14,000 seater Tsirion Stadium in Limassol with the intention of trying to keep the tie alive for the return leg in Windsor Park on the following Wednesday.
This will be no easy task against the Cypriot title holders as they will have to battle sweltering weather conditions, as well as a team who are considerably superior to their first qualifying round opponents, B36 Torshavn, who they only defeated after a penalty shoot-out.
The team will again have to figure without veteran defender, William Murphy, and although Alan Blayney has made the trip it is expected that Ross Glendenning will once more feature between the sticks for the Blues.
They will also be without injured midfield duo, Philip Lowry and Michael Gault, and defender Albert Watson leading manager Jeffrey to gearing his training to conserving the energy of the rest of his players.
Speaking to the club website, he commented, "The heat is so energy sapping and the players really need to conserve as much energy as possible. There will be quite a few rest periods for the players after training sessions to make sure they have as much energy as possible on Wednesday evening. The conditions have got to be seen and felt to be believed. The players were perspiring in their rooms until they got the air conditioning fully going."
Hired at the beginning of the season, Pambos Christodoulou has overseen a remarkable turn of fortune at AEL Limassol delivering their first Cypriot title in over 40 years.
Christodoulou came to the club with a reputation of performing well at smaller clubs with modest resources but he confounded all expectations by qualifying for Europe’s premier competition for the first time since 1969.
He has done so by assembling a squad of bargain acquisitions from a variety of countries including Cyprus, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, France, Angola and the Ivory Coast.
They will enter the match as heavy favourites and have completed a pre-season training camp in Poland where they played four friendly games.
The strike force of the team has been further bolstered by the arrival of Cypriot international Michalis Konstantinou, a player who has spent most of his career in Greece at Thessalonika, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos and will be remembered by Republic of Ireland fans for scoring twice for Cyprus in the 5-2 humiliation in Nicosia under Steve Staunton.
Referee: Ken Henry Johnsen (Norway)
Linfield have faced Cypriot opposition before in European competition. In 1998/99 they played Omonia Nicosia in an entertaining UEFA Cup tie. After losing 5-1 in Cyrpus, the Blues triumphed 5-3 in the second leg, going out 8-6 on aggregate.
AEL have only competed once before in Europe's premier club competition, way back in 1968/69 when they lost 12-0 on aggregate to Real Madrid in the old European Cup
As well as the football team, AEL are also represented by men's and women's basketball teams, a women's volleyball team, a newly established Futsal (five-a-side soccer) team, and women's handball team and a cricket team. They have won 240 competitions in all sports.
AEL Limassol 1/8 Draw 15/2 Linfield 18/1
AEL Limassol 3-0 Linfield
AEL Limassol Injury News: Unavailable
AEL Limassol Suspension News: None
Linfield Injury News: Alan Blayney (doubtful), William Murphy (unavailable) Albert Watson, Philip Lowry, Michael Gault
Linfield Suspension News: None