Sunday 18 March 2018

Apoel out to cash in on upset of Madrid

WHEN Cypriot giant-killers Apoel face Real Madrid tonight, some might call the Champions League quarter-final tie the biggest mismatch ever at this stage of the tournament.

Real's multi-million euro 'Galacticos' will take on a team that usually falls under Europe's football radar.

Unkind observers could tag the contest as one between the no hopers of Apoel and the all-conquering superstars of Spain.

But, throughout this campaign, the unfancied Cypriots have defied the odds in rewriting the history books - justifying UEFA boss Michel Platini's push for an even playing field for smaller clubs.

Apoel have come through the qualifying rounds to become the first Cypriot team to reach this stage of the competition.

More than 6,000 fans turned up at Nicosia's stadium to snap up the last 300 tickets last week.

The 23,000-capacity ground could easily have been sold-out three times over, such is the interest in this game.

Obviously, the star attraction for many Cypriots is the chance to see Cristiano Ronaldo.

Apoel's financial clout pales into insignificance when compared to the planet's richest football club with a €490m budget.

Goal machine Ronaldo is the world's most expensive player costing Real a record €80m on a yearly wage of more than €13m.

At Apoel, most player salaries do not exceed €13,000 a month.

Real's transfer budget this season was €130m - dwarfing the Cypriot's entire spending of around €8.6m a year, and the most Apoel spent on a player this season was Kaka from Hertha Berlin for €260,000.

Needless to say, a triumphant run in Europe has generated more than €22m for Apoel, which is enough to keep the club going for the next three seasons.

Apoel is also that rare breed of club which has wiped out its debts - it used the money from their first campaign in 2009 to pay off outstanding bills, while Real's debt is ¤170m.

It was the draw - along with Barcelona - that Apoel wanted to avoid but it will be the greatest test yet as to how far they have come.

The minnows that have lit up Europe's richest competition, finished top of their group and then secured an unlikely passage to the last eight by beating Lyon 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 aggregate scoreline.

APOEL v Real Madrid, Tonight,
Live Sky Sports 4 (KO 7.45)

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