Our football match prediction:
Athletic Bilbao will be looking to build on a come-from-behind win over Deportivo La Coruna when they welcome APOEL at their San Mames Barria in the Europa League last 32, first leg. The Lions are a real force to be reckoned with at home and they are eager to get their job done in Thursday’s football match. The Basque outfit are on a sixteen-game unbeaten run at home in all competitions, but coach Ernesto Valverde must warn his men against complacency. Aritz Aduriz scored the winner against Deportivo and he will be the man to watch in the home team. APOEL, on the other hand, are tough to beat at home as well, but they suffered seven defeats in previous eight away games in the Europa League and we predict that the visitors will return home empty-handed. It has to be noted that the two teams meet for the first time ever in European competitions.
Highlighted Player (Aduriz):
Aritz Aduriz is another Spanish footballer that can be placed in the late bloomers category, having played his best football after the age of 30. The cultured striker has spent his entire career in native Spain, and he was showing promise from the moment he first tasted senior football. The Basque forward arrived at Athletic Bilbao via Aurrera and Bilbao Athletic, but the first spell at San Mames proved quite disappointing and he went on to kick-start his career at Real Valladolid. Aduriz later returned to Athletic Bilbao to score 22 goals in 82 league outings, and then represented Mallorca and Valencia before returning for the third spell. Little did he know that it would prove to be the most successful stint of his career, with the forward producing some amazing displays in La Liga and Europa League, scoring over 95 goals in first four years upon rejoining los Leones. That proved enough for the striker to end a six-year exile from the national team as Aduriz featured in March 2016 friendlies vs Italy and Romania, scoring on his return against the Azzurri to prove age should not matter when the quality is there.
Highlighted Team (APOEL Nicosia):
APOEL are a Cypriot football club based in Nicosia. The Thrylos were founded on 8 November, 1926 and they won their first league trophy in 1932, defeating AEL Limassol 4-0 in the final. Over the years APOEL have established themselves as one of the best teams in Cyprus and they won their 25th domestic trophy in 2016. The Thrylos participated in the 2014/2015 Champions League group stages, but they failed to make life difficult for the likes of PSG, Ajax and Barcelona, picking up no more than one point from possible 18. APOEL share a great rivalry with Omonia and the meeting between two teams is well known as the Nicosia derby. A number of foreign footballers played for APOEL and it has to be noted that the likes of Daniel Florea, Dudu Biton, Marcos Tavares, Paul Okon, Dragisa Binic, Nenad Milosavljevic, Paulo Costa, Tiago Gomes, Alexandros Tziolis and Fernando Cavenaghi were all part of the team in the past. The colour of APOEL’s home kits is yellow. v