Preview: Elfsborg vs. Pafos FC

Both hoping to take their first steps towards continental glory, Elfsborg and Pafos FC will meet at Boras Arena for the first leg of their Europa League first-round qualifying clash on Thursday night.

The Yellow Ones are in the midst of their domestic season and come into this match following a handsome victory on the weekend, whilst Pafos are returning to action after a historic 2023-24 campaign.

Match preview

Following back-to-back defeats prior to the summer break at the hands of Malmo and IFK Goteborg, Elfsborg returned to winning ways in the Swedish Allsvenskan on Saturday afternoon, when they eased past the challenge of Brommapojkarna, who are slowly sliding towards the relegation places.

Both finding the net for the fifth time in the league term, the Yellow Ones’ leading marksmen Simon Hedlund and striker Michael Baidoo fired the hosts at Boras Arena into a two-goal advantage, before substitute Eggert Aron Gudmundsson arrived off the bench to bag his first of the season.

Elfsborg earned the right to a long shot of Europa League glory this year due to their commendable second-placed finish in the Allsvenskan during 2023, with that placement being the club’s highest in the top tier since they lifted their sixth Swedish crown in 2012.

The Yellow Ones’ most recent continental adventure was short-lived back in 2022, when the Allsvenskan outfit were pitted up against fellow Scandinavians Molde in the second qualifying round of the Europa Conference League, with the Norwegian giants securing a 6-2 success over two legs.

Overall, Elfsborg have played 126 matches in European competition, including 10 in the Champions League, but Oscar Hiljemark’s troops are not considered to be favourites to make the revamped league phase, regardless of their continental pedigree.

Celebrating their 10th birthday this year, Pafos should be in the mood for festivities following their first-ever major honour during the 2023-24 term, when the Paphos-based club lifted the Cypriot Cup following a resounding three-goal win over Omonia Nicosia in the final.

As a result, the side who finished fifth in the top flight of Cyprus last season will now compete in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League for the first time, looking to match the recent achievements of compatriots AEK Larnaca and APOEL Nicosia in reaching the proper phases of European competitions.

Despite their inexperience at this level, Pafos have plenty of attacking talent who will be confident of causing Elfsborg serious issues in the first leg, including Brazilian veteran Jairo, with the 32-year-old netting 34 goals across the last two seasons in the Cypriot first division.

Pafos navigated three friendlies fixtures in the build-up to Thursday night unbeaten, with the Cypriots playing out a goalless draw with Greek giants Panathinaikos last week, with that type of defensive solidity set to be key at Boras Arena against the Yellow Ones.

Team News

After being replaced at half time during the league win on the weekend, Sebastian Holmen could drop out of the Elfsborg XI for Thursday’s Europa League clash.

The Yellow Ones have a host of players who are knocking on the door to be promoted from the bench, including midfielder Noah Soderberg and winger Camil Jebara.

Although Jairo is the main man for Pafos in attack, Swedish forward Muamer Tankovic is also a serious threat after netting 16 goals across all competitions last season.

The Cypriots will miss the commanding presence of Adrian Rus in their backline, with 28-year-old returning to parent club Pisa after forming part of Romania’s squad at Euro 2024 in Germany.

Elfsborg possible starting lineup:
Pettersson; Kaib, Henriksson, Yegbe; Hedlund, Ouma, B Zeneli, Hult; Qasem, A Zeneli, Baidoo

Pafos FC possible starting lineup:
Ivusic; Goldar, Kvida, Melluso, Name; Twumasi, Valakari, Dragomir; Jairo, Felipe, Tankovic

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