MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 12: Sergio Ramos (L) of Real Madrid react next to Gustavo Cabral of Levante during the la Liga match between Real Madrid and Levante at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on February 12, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
APOEL are getting ready to host the world's most decorated team at the raucous GSP stadium in Nicosia tomorrow evening. It has been a long journey for the little-Cypriot-side-that-could from their humble confectionery shop origins 85 years ago to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Join me after the jump for some good old fashioned reconnaissance as we try and get a sense of these Mediterranean mystery men in the lead-up to tomorrow's match.Home form and supporters-
APOEL's homefield advantage is for real. FIFA.com reported that over 6,000 fans turned up at the stadium to try and secure the last 300 remaining tickets on Friday--such is the feverish excitement and anticipation surrounding their clash with Real Madrid. APOEL Captain and Cyprus international Constantinos Charalambides paid tribute to the intensity of the club's "orange" supporters, saying:
We will play 100 percent for our team, our fans, ourselves, to enjoy the game and do our best. In Europe the fans push us on a lot and they deserve that we do our best.
The captain suggested that the atmosphere and passion generated by the supporters has played a pivotal role in the side's impressive home form in the Champions League, which has seen them win five of their seven home matches, thus far.
Yahoo Sports has an eye-popping breakdown of some numbers that capture the truly oceanic size and stature gulf between the two clubs. Take a look at this:
APOEL’s 10 million ($13.24 million) annual budget is one forty-fifth of Madrid’s—or about one-tenth of what the Spanish club spent to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United three years ago.
By contrast, APOEL’s most expensive signing was Brazilian forward Ailton Almeida, who cost the club 1 million ($1.32 million).
FIFA.com provides even more context.
"Real's transfer budget this season was €130 million - dwarfing the Cypriot club's entire spending of around €8.6 million a year and the most APOEL spent on a player this season was Kaka from Hertha Berlin for €260,000. Helder Sousa, a 34-year-old Portuguese midfielder, was the only new addition in the transfer window costing €90,000."
Zonal Marking has written multiple looks at APOEL's progress through the Champions League, most recently posting a tactical recap of APOEL's victory against Lyon. As ZM notes, APOEL manager Ivan Jovanovic has usually relied upon a 4-2-3-1 system, but has also employed a 4-1-4-1 on the club's European adventures this season. Many observers credit the Serbian coach for fashioning a cohesive, unified team out of a bunch of "unheralded Brazilians, Portuguese and Cypriots," to once again quote FIFA.com.
The Sun Daily anticipates that:
Jovanovic will seek to pack his midfield, deny Real's "Galacticos" space and hit them on the counter-attack with talisman Ailton the lone striker.
CSKA seemed to have had a similar counter-attacking strategy in mind and more pace and quality within their strikeforce to implement it, but Mourinho and los blancos were able to combat that strategy without much trouble.
What do you think going into this match, madridistas? We can't afford to be overconfident, so perhaps the stumble against Villarreal can be viewed as positive, as it may have served to refocus the side for the most crucial months of the season.
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