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FC Barcelona’s Champions League 2014/15 campaign gets under way on Wednesday against APOEL of Nicosia, and here’s a round-up of useful information about the game:
- Founded in 1926, APOEL is the most successful club in Cypriot football history with 23 leagues, 20 cups and 13 super cups to their name. They’ve won five of the last eight domestic championships.
- APOEL are through to the group stage of the competition for the third time, and until now they have never failed to make it into the knockout stages. The side coached by Giorgos Donis beat HJK Helsinki 4-2 on aggregate and then Aalborg of Denmark 5-1 to qualify this season. Curiously, they played the Finnish side just a few days after Barça had met the same side in a preseason friendly.
- Barça are facing APOEL for the first time ever in an official match, the same situation that arose last season when they met Ajax Amsterdam for the first time ever – a particularly surprising circumstance considering the close bonds between these two traditional giants of the European game.
- This is the third time that Barça has hosted a Cypriot team in Europe. The two previous occasions were in the Cup Winners Cup, first against Apollon Limassol (8-0) on 15 September 1982, and later against AEK Larnaka (2-0) on 12 September 1996, with Bobby Robson on the bench and Luis Enrique on the pitch. But APOEL will only be the second team from Cyprus to play at the Camp Nou. Because the turf was being replaced in 1996, the game with AEK was played at the Olympic Stadium, Montjuic.
- Current APOEL player George Efrem’s father was in the Apollon team that played Barça in 1982.
- APOEL’s keeper, Urko Pardo, was born in Brussels to Spanish parents and spent eight years in the FC Barcelona academy, where he formed part of the same generation as such players as Andrés Iniesta and Leo Messi.
- APOEL’s most famous player is Norwegian John Arne Riise, who played alongside Javier Mascherano at Liverpool from late in the 2006/07 season through to the summer of 2008, when Riise left Anfield for Roma, just days after Luis Enrique left the Italian capital for Celta.
- Barça v APOEL will mark both Luis Enrique and Giorgos Donis’ debuts as managers.
- One member of the APOEL team, Tiago Gomes, already knows what it’s like to win at the Camp Nou after doing so with Hercules in September 2010. The side from Alicante stunned Barça 2-0 on their home turf that day.
- More positively for FCB’s interests, Ivan Rakitic has scored against APOEL before. When at Schalke 04 he contributed to a 4-1 win in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup.
- All of Douglas, Sandro and Munir are on the verge of making their Champions League debuts. Goalkeeper Ter Stegen has played in a playoff before, but never in the groups.
- APOEL have never won away in the Champions League, but five of their six road trips in previous Champions League group stages have ended in draws, and against such illustrious opponents as Chelsea, Atlético Madrid and Porto.
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