Apoel Nicosia v Zenit preview

Apoel were drawn alongside Tuesday night’s opponents Zenit St

Petersburg, Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk in a pool which looks strong

without having an overwhelming favourite. He said: “We must admit

that the group is very difficult. All the opponents we face are

strong. “I honestly cannot pick a favourite because all three of

our opponents have won a European trophy in the recent past. “It is

impossible to say who the strongest team are. I think the battle

for the first two positions will be tough.” Macedonian Trickovski

is also aware the financial clout in Russian football has enabled

Zenit to bring in a host of top-class players from around the

world, adding: “Zenit are a very good team and we approach the game

with the utmost concentration. “In Europe everyone knows Zenit have

won the UEFA Cup and were runners-up in the UEFA Super Cup. “Many

players are known by their presence with the national teams. There

are internationals from Russia, Portugal, Italy, Slovakia, Belgium

and other countries. “So we can say that we face an emerging

European power.” Zenit president Alexander Dyukov agrees with

Trickovski’s assertion that the pool will be difficult to emerge

from successfully. He told the club’s official website: “Porto and

Shakhtar are very strong teams. “Of course the image of these clubs

is not so well known and they do not sound as imposing as say Inter

Milan, Bayern Munich or Arsenal but matches are not decided by

image but by performance on the field. “And in my opinion, the

skill and class levels of Shakhtar and Porto are no lower than the

aforementioned teams.” That is not to say Dyukov expects an easy

ride in their opener at the GSP Stadium, located just outside the

Cypriot capital, especially with Apoel defending a seven-match

unbeaten home run in Europe. “They are a very good team which will

challenge us,” he added. “I agree with what (Zenit coach) Luciano

(Spalletti) said – the first match will be very difficult. “Apoel

are very good technically and play swift football. “It will also be

hot in Cyprus and they will be backed by their passionate

supporters.”