Atletico Madrid play host to competition debutants APOEL FC in what, on paper, looks like a Champions League mismatch.
The unheralded Cypriot outfit qualified for the group stages by virtue of a play-off defeat of FC Copenhagen and Atletico coach Abel Resino sees tonight’s game as the perfect opportunity for his side to get their season back on track after disappointing start to the league campaign.
“I don’t want to think about [Saturday’s league match against] Barcelona before we have to play APOEL,” he said. “We’ll think about it on Wednesday.
“After two matches in the Spanish league without winning, my team needs confidence again. The supporters need to believe in the team again, and we’ll do our best. We don’t want to look back, and if the supporters are asking for more, that’s good because it means that we are an important club.
“I want to send a message to the supporters: please, believe in our work, believe in us. We are going to compete everyday. I’ve talked to the doctor about Maxi [Rodríguez] and he is alright but injured because of the match with Argentina.
As well as Maxi, Resina will be without Raul Garcia, Mariano Pernia and Ignacio Camacho.
APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said his players are looking forward to what is arguably the biggest game in the club’s history.
“We respect Atletico a lot,” said Jovanovic. “They are a great team; just look at how Resino’s men beat Panathinaikos [5-2 on aggregate] in the qualifying round. But we are ready for an important match like this. We’ll do our best and the only thing I’m worried about is the players that are not at my disposal.
“It’s our first time playing in the UEFA Champions League and we are very excited. We beat Copenhagen and Partizan in qualifying; two teams stronger than us, and now we are in a very difficult group with Chelsea, Atletico and Porto. For us it’s an incredible experience and we are proud to be playing in this competition.
Jovanovic has a number of injury concerns, but definitely missing will be Nenad Mirosavljevic who an ankle knock and Nektarios Alexandrou who is suspended.