Having been very convincing in the first two qualifying rounds, the Cypriot champions have every reason to hope for a good result against Anderlecht, especially as the hot and humid weather in Nicosia will give them a big advantage over their opponents. The Belgium champions had an easy job against weak Ekranas in the previous round, but they could now be in for a difficult night in Cyprus.
No goals conceded in four Champions League games
Cypriot football has been on the major uptrend over the last few years, mostly thanks to APOEL who twice made it to Champions League group stages. However, it was AEL Limassol who won the Cypriot championship last term, leaving APOEL and Omonia to trail in their wake. The new champions were somewhat of an unknown quantity when they entered the Champions League qualifying stages this term, but they quickly proved they have more than enough quality to play at this level. Following the 3-0 aggregate win over weak Linfield, AEL recorded a double win over Serbian champions Partizan, a team that had eliminated Anderlecht at the same stage just two years ago. The Cypriots not only managed to keep their fourth successive clean sheet, but they showed a remarkable speed, strength and tactical discipline in both legs against Partizan, and they can now hope for a good result against Anderlecht as well. Don’t let their 5-3 defeat Super Cup to Omonia fool you given that boss Pambos Christodoulou had rested all his starters in that game.
Winger Jorge Monteiro is suspended after the red card against Partizan, but all other players are ready for this clash.
Five straight wins
Arguably the most famous Belgian side have been struggling to return to old glory days and the last time they reached Champions League group stages was back in 2006. After winning the league title last term, Anderlecht entered the new season with virtually unchanged squad, and they have enjoyed a pretty good start. RSCA have now won last five games in all competitions, but it is fair to say that all of their opponents during that period were somewhat weaker than their next rivals. This will be their first real test this season and given that the match will be played in extremely hot weather and against a side that boast unbelievable strong and quick players, there are no doubts Anderlecht will struggle to make their presence known. The Belgian side may be technically superior to their opponents, but so was Partizan and they failed to even create more than one clear-cut chance in two games, let alone score a goal.
Key striker Matias Suarez is sidelined through injury, while Guillermo Molins, Ronald Vargas and Reynaldo are also out.
AEL Limassol may be an unknown quantity to most of the fans outside Cyprus, but having watched both games against Partizan, I am convinced they can get something from this game. Anderlecht are still not on top of their game and the adverse weather conditions are likely to further damage their chances of getting something from Cyprus.
Our prediction: AEL Limassol Draw no bet
Odds: 2.75 (7/4)
Bookmaker: Paddy Power