APOEL primed to test brittle Lyon's mettle

The GSP stadium is set to be rocked to its foundations by 20,000 frenzied APOEL Nicosia fans on Wednesday when the Cypriot side bid to extend their Champions League dream beyond the last 16 by overturning a 1-0 first-leg defeat by Olympique Lyon.

Unfancied APOEL caused the surprise of the group stage by topping a quartet also featuring Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Zenit St Petersburg and the club's expectant fans believe a team made up mainly of Brazilian and Portuguese journeymen can cause a Cypriot sporting stir only previously achieved by tennis player Marcos Baghdatis.

"This is what the Greek spirit can do when it's healthy," supporter Stefan Menelaou said.

"For me personally, it is pride and satisfaction that the Greek spirit still lives even in a team full of Brazilians, Portuguese and god knows how many different nationalities."

Lyon laboured to a first-leg victory in France with a second-half goal from Alexandre Lacazette and APOEL were strong at home in the group stage, beating both Porto and Zenit.

"It is something unprecedented for fans, not only those of APOEL," another fan, Panayiotis Hadjiapostolou, added. "Cypriot fans have never experienced such a thing before."


For the first time in some weeks, coach Ivan Jovanovic has a fully fit squad at his disposal and spirits are high after two league wins revived title hopes for APOEL who sit third in their domestic championship.

"We will face Olympique with our morale high. We will get our chances and we are going to chase them until the end," said Serb Jovanovic.

Lyon geared up for the return leg in the worst possible way, losing 2-0 at strugglers Nancy in Ligue 1 as their hopes of playing in the Champions League next season took another blow on Saturday.

It was Lyon's third defeat in their last four league games.

"It's a big disappointment but... we need to get back on track mentally and not listen to all the negative comments," Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas told reporters.

"But the team usually play well in decisive matches."

Lyon will be without playmaker Yoann Gourcuff, who has been ruled out with a groin injury but has barely been playing lately after his form nosedived this season.

Coach Remi Garde, however, is expect to welcome back centre-back Dejan Lovren, although the Croat is unlikely to start the game.

Probable teams:

APOEL Nicosia: 22-Dionysis Chiotis; 7-Savvas Poursaitides, 98-William Boaventura, 3-Paulo Jorge, 6-Marcello Oliveria, 31-Helder Sousa; 26-Nuno Morais, 10-Constantinos Charalambidis, 21-Gustavo Manduca, 81-Marcinhio; 11-Ivan Trickovski.

Olympique Lyon: 1-Hugo Lloris; 13-Anthony Reveillere, 3-Cris, 4-Bakary Kone, 20-Aly Cissokho; 21-Maxime Gonalons, 6-Kim Kallstrom, 11-Michel Bastos, 19-Jimmy Briand; 18-Bafetimbi Gomis, 9-Lisandro Lopez.