Black Sea Storm eyes on Europa ticket
Trabzonspor is undefeated in 10 consecutive UEFA Europa League matches this season, with eight wins and two draws. Mustafa Reşit Akçay's men do not need victory against Apollon Limassol on Wednesday to progress because a draw or even a 1-0 defeat will be enough to see them through.Trabzonspor, popularly called the Black Sea Storm, entertains Greek Cypriot side Apollon Limassol in the fifth game in Group J of the UEFA Europa League at Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium on Thursday, knowing quite well that if everything goes its way, a ticket for the last 32 will be assured.
The rampaging Storm is undefeated in 10 consecutive Europa League matches this season, with eight wins and two draws. Mustafa Reşit Akçay's men do not need a victory against Apollon Limassol on Wednesday to progress because a draw or even a 1-0 defeat will be enough to see them through.
Anything other than a victory by at least a two-goal margin would mean that Apollon will not be able to overtake Lazio (eight points) or Trabzonspor (10) at the top end of the section. This means Trabzonspor will be in a very relaxed mood going into Thursday's game.
The Storm had previously taught Apollon Limassol a good football lesson in the group opener on Sept. 19, beating the tiny Greek Cypriot side 2-1 away. Therefore barring any unforeseen circumstances, Trabzonspor should have no difficulty winning with relative ease.
Trabzonspor's Brazilian Paulo Henrique has emerged as the team's goal machine this season. The Brazilian has netted eight goals for the team in the UEFA Europa League this season and six in the Spor Toto Super League -- a total of 14 goals in all competitions. The Brazilian scored the only goal in the domestic league match against Eskişehirspor in the 74th minute on Sunday.
With Henrique in tremendous form, Apollon Limassol is not expected to pose much of a challenge to the Storm. But the Storm must guard against complacency and not forget one of the golden rules in football that "thou shalt not underestimate an opponent or overestimate thyself."
Henrique will be partnered up by former Chelsea offensive midfielder Florent Johan Malouda. The French international and Apollon's Camel Meriem were briefly teammates for the France national team in 2004.
Upsets and surprises abound in football, but it seems unthinkable that Apollon can draw in Trabzonspor at Avni Aker on Thursday, let alone win.
Kickoff is at 22:05 and the referee will be Manuel Grafe of Germany and his assistants Thorsten Schiffner and Guido Kleve. The fourth official will be Mike Pickel and the additional assistant referees Guido Winkmann and Robert Hartmann.
By the way, the game will be watched on Turkish sports TV channel NTV SPOR