Champions League: Apoel Nicosia ready for Real Madrid test

Apoel Nicosia players celebrate after their victory over Lyon in the Champions League
Apoel make history by reaching the Champions League last eight

Apoel Nicosia want to represent Cyprus with "honour" when they host nine-time winners Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.

It is the the first time a Cypriot team has reached the last eight of any European competition.

"This is the apex of the team's history - it's the highest honour to represent Cyprus among the best in Europe," said Apoel spokesman Panicos Hadjiliasis.

"We have tremendous respect for Real [but] we'll give it our all."

Apoel, who finished bottom of their group in their last Champions League campaign in 2009, began their Champions League run with a qualifier in Albania in mid-July 2011.

They finished top of Group G, which included Porto, Zenit St Petersburg and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Then came seven-time French league winners Lyon in the last 16, who Apoel saw off in a thrilling penalty shoot-out in Nicosia, which led to street parties on the small Mediterranean island.

But they will be up against a Madrid team who are top of La Liga and whose star player, Cristiano Ronaldo, scored his 35th league goal of the season on Saturday to become the fastest player in Spanish history to reach 100 league goals.

Apoel coach Ivan Jovanovic is under no illusions about the size of the task facing his side, who will be without their goalscoring hero from the last round, Brazilian Gustavo Manduca.

"It is a very difficult match and we must give a top performance against one of the best teams in the world," he said.

"I achieved almost everything in the last four years with Apoel but I still have a dream. To eliminate Real.

"In this case, surely we have to play the perfect game but we don't know if that will give us the result we want."

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho is taking nothing for granted against a side that has won five of its seven home game in this season's competition.

"They eliminated top-class teams. We have studied them a lot," said the Portuguese manager.

"Apoel is a very balanced team. For many, this may mean nothing, but for me it means a lot and I hope my players realise this too.

"We are the favourites, but football is football. I am sure that we are not going to have teams certain for the last four from the first leg."

The first leg of the Champions League quarter-final will take place at Apoel's 23,000-capacity GSP stadium, where a goalless draw with city rivals Omonia Nicosia on Friday left Apoel third in their domestic league.

Thousands of Apoel fans queued up for tickets for the quarter-final on Thursday, but Apoel chairman Phivos Erotocritou issued an apology after only a small number of supporters were able to get tickets.

"It is truly shameful what happened, with the hassle we imposed on so many thousands of people with a wrong decision we made," he told a Cypriot newspaper.

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