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# Just Europa
Dundalk's opponents boast La Liga experience but several key players absent
The Lilywhites host Cypriot Cup holders AEK Larnaca at Oriel Park in the Europa League on Thursday.

AEK LARNACA HAVE travelled to Ireland without several key players — including captain David Catala — for Thursday evening’s Europa League clash with Dundalk at Oriel Park.

Playing their first competitive game since 16 May, Larnaca have named their 17-man squad for the first leg of their Europa League second round qualifier.

inpho_01240025 INPHO / Sakis Savvides AEK Larnaca's Florian Taulemesse winning a header against Cork City's Conor McCormack last season. INPHO / Sakis Savvides / Sakis Savvides

It includes seven players who featured at the same stage of the competition last year, when they eliminated Cork City thanks to 1-0 victories in each leg. However, Daniel Mojsov is the only member of the travelling party who was part of the back five that started the 2-1 victory over Apollon Limassol in the Cypriot Cup final just over nine weeks ago.

A notable absentee is 2017-18 top goalscorer Florian Taulemesse, who scored the only goal in their home leg against Cork. The French striker has stayed behind in Cyprus, as has skipper Catala, their 38-year-old former Espanyol and Celta Vigo defender.

Also missing for Larnaca this week will be Brazilian defender Igor Silva, who recently joined on loan from Olympiakos, Montenegro international midfielder Vladimir Boljevic, and Cypriot international trio Marios Antoniades, Vincent Laban and Onisiforos Roushias.

However, there’s still more than enough quality in the visitors’ ranks to make this a difficult prospect for Stephen Kenny’s side, who advanced to this stage courtesy of a 3-1 aggregate triumph over Levadia Tallinn of Estonia.

The AEK Larnaca squad for the first leg against Dundalk includes three senior internationals — Daniel Mojsov, Ivan Trickovski (both Macedonia) and Apostolos Giannou (Australia) — and six players who have featured in La Liga.

That group consists of goalkeeper Toño Ramirez, who featured for Real Sociedad in the Spanish top flight last season; defender Mikel Gonzalez, who played nearly 200 La Liga games for the same club; Jorge Larena, formerly of Atletico Madrid; Nacho Cases (ex-Sporting Gijon), Joan Tomas (once of Villarreal and Celta Vigo) and Acoran Reyes (ex-Tenerife), who scored the winner in the Cypriot Cup final.

FC Barcelona v Real Sociedad de Futbol - La Liga Getty Images Real Sociedad's Mikel Gonzalez, now of AEK Larnaca, tangling with Barcelona's Lionel Messi in 2012. Getty Images

Thursday’s game will be AEK Larnaca’s first competitive outing under the management of former Spanish international defender Andoni Iraola. He succeeded compatriot Imanol Idiakez, who departed for Real Zaragoza in June after guiding Larnaca to a fourth-place finish in the league and their first cup triumph in 14 years.

After their victory over Cork City last year, Larnaca eliminated Dinamo Minsk of Belarus before being denied a place in the Europa League group stages by Viktoria Plzen of Czech Republic, who were 3-1 winners on aggregate.

The 24-year-old club’s most famous European result occurred in 2016, when they knocked out Spartak Moscow in the third qualifying round of the Europa League. They reached the group stages in the 2011-12 season by getting the better of Rosenborg.

The second leg of AEK Larnaca’s tie against Dundalk will take place in Cyprus on Thursday, 2 August. The prize for the winners will be a meeting with the losers of the Champions League second qualifying round tie between Ajax and Sturm Graz.

AEK Larnaca squad (v Dundalk): Toño Ramirez, Andreas Christodoulou, Joan Truyols, Mikel Gonzalez, Tomas Ioannou, Rafael Anastasiou, Daniel Mojsov, Jorge Larena, Rafael Mamas, Joan Tomas, Hector Hevel, Nacho Cases, Apostolos Giannou, Acoran Reyes, Tete, Ivan Trickovski, Konstantinos Konstantinou.

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