A ROUGH GUIDE TO GROUP D

Posted on: Fri 28 Aug 2009

APOEL of Cyrpus may be the least know of Chelsea's Champions League group opponents but they have something Porto and Atlético Madrid don't possess - a former Chelsea player.

Nuno Morais (pictured below left), the Portuguese who signed for us in 2004 but never established himself at the Bridge, is now a regular for the team drawn in Group D from the pot of fourth seeds.

He made nine appearances during his time in England, his one start coming in an FA Cup win over Scunthorpe, and spent one year on-loan back in his homeland before his final appearances. Out of contract, he moved to Cyprus in 2007.

Nuno Morais

Morais was mostly a defender at Chelsea but now 25-years-old, he is more likely to be seen playing as a defensive midfielder which is where he was fielded in APOEL's Champions League qualifiers against FC Copenhagen.

They beat the Danish side 3-1 at home having lost the away leg 1-0. Early goals in Nicosia put APOEL in command but the tie swung back again when an away goal was scored on 22 minutes. Chrysostomos Michail then netted his second four minutes before the break to seal it. Copenhagen brought on former Chelsea flyer Jesper Gronkjaer as a sub.

Previously, APOEL had beaten a side from the Faroe Islands and then scored a surprise win over Serb champions Partizan Belgrade to became only the second Cypriot team, after Famagusta Anorthosis last year, to qualify for the Champions League group stage.

APOEL have won the domestic league in Cyprus more than any other club. They have finished first four times in the last eight years and their overall total is 20 titles, the first in 1936 - 10 years after the club was founded. They've won the Cyprus Cup 19 times.

Coach Ivan Jovanovic is a Serb and although their squad is by-and-large Cypriots, there is representation from Brazil, Albania, Poland, Slovakia, Serbia and Macedonia as well as Portugal.

Among their ex-players is former England international and Kevin Keegan sidekick, Terry McDermott, who finished his career there.

Nicknamed Thrylos (The Legend), the initials APOEL (translated) stand for Athletic Football Club of Greeks of Nicosia.

Their stadium in the inland capital city is the 10-year-old all-seater GSP Stadium, which has a capacity just under 23,000. It is shared with big rivals Omonia Nicosia.

APOEL have a decent home record in Champions League qualifiers. They have won five and lost just one of their last eight matches.


Atlético Madrid
may currently have no ex-Chelsea players but some well-known names have passed through both clubs.

Claudio Ranieri spent a very short period there as manager while Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was far more successful in the Spanish capital having finished La Liga top scorer in his one year there before moving to Chelsea for £15 million.

Mateja Kezman and Jesper Gronkjaer tried their luck at Atlético after leaving Chelsea and Maniche, who spent a short loan at Chelsea, recently knew the Vicente Calderón stadium as home.

Atlético have a mighty history having won the Spanish title nine times and the Spanish Cup nine times as well. The most recent championship in 1996 was a double year.

This season is the second in a row in the Champions League group stage, after an 11-year gap, and the third overall but Atlético lost the old European Cup Final in 1974 when Bayern Munich beat them in a replay.

Formed in 1903 by Basques in Madrid as an offshoot of Athletic Bilbao, they are nicknamed Los Colchoneros (The Mattress Makers).

The current day Atlético finished fourth in Spain last season and comfortably disposed of Henk ten Cate's Panathinaikos in the Champions qualifier, 5-2 on aggregate.

Scorer in both legs was 21-year-old Sergio Agüero (pictured below), one of hottest prospects in world football who has been linked by the media over the summer with a move to Chelsea.

A Madrid

Joining the Argentine in attack is Diego Forlan, Spain's top scorer last season with 32 goals, and there are other former Premier League players in the squad - ex-Arsenal man José Antonio Reyes and Florent Sinama Pongolle, once of Liverpool.

The coach is Abel Resino, a former goalkeeper at the club who took over in February.

The Vicente Calderon stadium (pictured top) is famous for a big atmosphere. Rebuilt for the 1982 World Cup, it holds just under 55,000 and is on the banks of Madrid's main river, in the south of the city.


Porto
need far less introduction to Chelsea fans, many of whom have visited the 52,000 capacity Estadio do Dragao in recent seasons to see the Blues take on the twice European champions.

In the group stage in 2004/05, having won 3-1 at the Bridge (goals from Alexey Smertin, Didier Drogba and John Terry), Chelsea under José Mourinho went back to the club he had recently departed and lost 2-1 having taken the lead through Damien Duff.

In the first knockout stage in 2006/07, Porto again proved tough on the banks of the Douro but Chelsea drew 1-1 thanks to an Andriy Shevchenko equaliser. We progressed with a 2-1 win at the Bridge (Arjen Robben and Michael Ballack).

This year's imminent visit to Porto is bound to stir emotion in Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira and Hilario once more, and it will be a first competitive return for José Bosingwa and for Deco.

Jesualdo Ferreira has been coach for the last three seasons, each ending with the league title.

Hulk

He has to cope with losing star Argentine striker Lisandro López in a big money move to Lyon in the summer, but he is able to call on a squad packed with South Americans including Brazilian attacker Hulk (pictured above), nicknamed after the TV/comic book character.

Among the players coming in for the new campaign is Alvaro Pereira who played in the CFR Cluj defence that shut Chelsea out in Romania last season.