AEK Larnaca and Dnipro-1 go head to head at the AEK Arena in the second leg of their Europa League qualifying playoff-round clash on Thursday.
Following a hard-earned 2-1 victory in the first leg, the Cypriot outfit are now 90 minutes away from a place in the group stages and will look to cross the finish line in fine fashion
AEK Larnaca placed one foot in the group stages of the Europa League as they claimed a 2-1 victory over Dnipro-1 when the sides met in the first leg of the qualifying playoff round last Thursday.
In a game where Eduard Sarapiy received his marching orders, first-half goals from Omri Altman and Hrvoje Milicevic put the Cypriot outfit in a comfortable lead before Oleksandr Svatok pulled one back in the 90th minute.
This followed a thrilling 2-2 draw with Partizan in the second leg of their third qualifying round tie on August 11 which completed a 4-3 aggregate victory over the Serbian outfit.
Jose Luis Oltra’s men now return to their home turf, where they are unbeaten in three of their last four games across all competitions, claiming two wins and one draw in that time.
AEK Larnaca will be looking to get the job done on Thursday and pick up a morale boost ahead of their 2022-23 Cyprus 1st Division curtain-raiser against Doxa Katokopias next Monday.
Dnipro-1, on the other hand, have now failed to taste victory in any of their last three games across all competitions, dating back to February’s 1-0 friendly win over Tobol Kostanay.
Prior to last week’s first-leg defeat, the Ukrainian side were involved in two friendly fixtures in the month of July, losing 4-2 against Aris Limassol on July 14 before holding out for a 1-1 draw with Beitar Jerusalem one week later.
Due to the ongoing crisis in the country, Dnipro-1 have not played competitive games in well over eight months, stretching back to December 10, when they picked up a 3-0 victory over Mariupol in the Premier League.
However, with the Ukrainian Premier League back in action, Oleksandr Kucher’s side will look to pick up an inspiring result on Thursday ahead of their opening game against league heavyweights Dynamo Kyiv on Sunday.
AEK Larnaca will once again have to make do with the absence of 23-year-old goalkeeper Andreas Paraskevas, who continues his spell on the sidelines through a cruciate ligament injury.
Off the back of last week’s first-leg victory, Oltra could name a similar starting side on Thursday, meaning that we could see an attacking trio of Adam Gyurcso, Rafael Lopes and French forward Imad Faraj.
At the opposite end of the pitch, Milicevic, who has two goals in the last three games, should pair alongside Mikel Gonzalez in the middle of the back four, while Altman, Gus Ledes and Oier should retain their roles at the centre of the park.
Meanwhile, Dnipro-1 will take to the pitch without the services of Sarapiy after the 23-year-old Metalist loanee received his marching orders in the first leg.
In his absence, former Bodo/Glimt man Ruslan Babenko will push for a place in the starting XI, potentially teaming up with 26-year-old Igor Kogut in the two-man midfield pivot.
AEK Larnaca possible starting lineup:
Toumpas; Rosales, Milicevic,Gonzalez, Englezou; Oier, Ledes, Altman; Faraj, Lopes, Gyurcso
Dnipro-1 possible starting lineup:
Walef; Tanchyk, Adamyuk, Svatok, Busanello; Kogut, Babenko; Purita, Pikhalyonok, Blanco; Dovbyk