Memories will be stirred of the most memorable European campaign in APOEL FC’s history when they visit Real Madrid CF on matchday one – while the UEFA Champions League holders are looking to become the first team in over 40 years to win the trophy three seasons running.
• Champions in Milan in 2016 and in Cardiff last May, Madrid – triumphant in three of the last four campaigns having also lifted the trophy in 2014 – have not lost a home group game in almost eight years and will want a positive start as they plot a path to next May’s Kyiv final.
• The teams met for the first and only time in the 2011/12 quarter-finals, with Madrid posting a comfortable victory. Three goals in the last 19 minutes of the Nicosia first leg, from Karim Benzema (72, 90) and Kaká (82), put the Merengues in command of the tie; they followed up by winning 5-2 at home with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice and Kaká, José Callejón and Ángel Di María once apiece. Gustavo Manduca and Esteban Solari were on target for APOEL.
• The line-ups at the Santiago Bernabéu on 4 April 2012 were:
Madrid: Casillas, Ramos, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo (Callejón 46), Granero (Albiol 65), Hamit Altıntop, Nuri Şahin, Kaká, Ronaldo, Higuaín (Di María 55).
APOEL: Pardo, Paulo Jorge, Kaká, Poursaitides, Aílton (Solari 70), Charalambides, Manduca (Adorno 68), Pinto (Satsias 78), Morais, Marcinho, Boaventura.
• Champions of Europe for a 12th time in 2016/17 – courtesy of their 4-1 final win against Juventus – Madrid will aim to become the first team since FC Bayern München in 1976 to claim three successive European Champion Clubs’ Cups. AFC Ajax (1971–73) and Madrid themselves (1956–60) are the only other sides to have won three or more in a row.
• In 21 previous participations in the UEFA Champions League, Madrid have never failed to progress from the initial group stage.
• Madrid finished second in their group in 2016/17, behind Borussia Dortmund – the first time since 2012/13 they had failed to top their section.
• The Spanish team have a perfect record against Cypriot clubs, winning all six previous contests and scoring 34 goals while conceding only three. At home their goals tally is 17–3.
• Madrid have not lost at home in the UEFA Champions League group stage since a 3-2 reverse against AC Milan on 21 October 2009. Their home group record since then is W20 D2 – with Dortmund, twice, the only visitors to avoid defeat at the Santiago Bernabéu.
• The 2-2 draw with Dortmund on matchday six last season is the solitary occasion Madrid have failed to win in their last 12 European home fixtures. The Merengues have won 31 of their last 36 UEFA Champions League home matches, losing just once – 4-3 to FC Schalke 04 in their 2014/15 round of 16 second leg, when they still prevailed 5-3 on aggregate.
• The Cypriot club are in the group stage for a fourth time, having previously qualified in 2009/10, 2011/12 – when they went all the way from second qualifying round to quarter-finals, losing to Madrid – and 2014/15.
• APOEL have won through from the second qualifying round to reach this group stage, beating Luxembourg’s F91 Dudelange (2-0 on aggregate) and FC Viitorul of Romania (4-1). In the play-offs they overcame SK Slavia Praha 2-0 at home before a goalless away draw.
• Thwarted in the play-offs by FC København 12 months ago, APOEL went on to finish first in their UEFA Europa League group, subsequently ousting Athletic Club 4-3 on aggregate in the round of 32 before losing to RSC Anderlecht 1-0 both home and away in the last 16.
• APOEL have lost five of their last seven European away matches.
• APOEL have lost on seven of their eight visits to Spain, drawing the other game 0-0 at Club Atlético de Madrid in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage. They were beaten 3-2 at Athletic last term, but won the tie with a 2-0 second-leg success on home soil.
• APOEL qualified for this season’s UEFA Champions League by clinching a fifth successive Cypriot league title in 2016/17.
Coach and player links
• Zinédine Zidane scored the opening goal in France’s 4-0 victory over Cyprus in a 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifier on 12 October 2005. Stathis Aloneftis was in the visiting side.
• Ronaldo struck twice and provided an assist in Portugal’s 4-0 UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying triumph in Cyprus on 2 September 2011.
• Gareth Bale got the Wales winner against Antreas Makris’s Cyprus in Nicosia in a UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier on 3 September 2015.
• Igor De Camargo was in the KRC Genk team beaten 6-0 at Madrid in the UEFA Champions League first group stage on 25 September 2002.
• Roberto Lago made 194 league outings for RC Celta de Vigo between 2007 and 2013 before moving to Getafe CF. He played 52 times for the Madrid club over three years.
• Lago’s record against Madrid with Celta and Getafe was W1 D0 L5. The sole win was a 2-1 Celta success in a Copa del Rey fifth round first leg in December 2011; Madrid won the return 4-0.
• Jesús Rueda was at Real Valladolid from 2007 to 2015, spending 2009/10 on loan with Córdoba CF. He played at the Bernabéu twice, both for Valladolid; his side lost both matches, conceding four goals in each.