After shepherding APOEL FC to the championship last season, Ivan Jovanovic will be looking to repeat the feat in his first full term at the helm when the Cypriot First Division kicks off on Saturday.
Jovanovic has strengthened his attack by signing Michel Di Pietti from English club Bristol Rovers FC together with Cypriot international Marios Neophytou, the former Apollon Limassol FC and Anorthosis Famagusta FC front man, who returned to Cyprus after a disappointing season at Greek club OFI Crete FC.
Super Cup win
Neophytou got his APOEL career off to a perfect start on Saturday, with a hat-trick in the dramatic 5-4 win against AEK Larnaca FC in the Cypriot Super Cup. Di Pietti also got on the scoresheet but Jovanovic will have been less pleased with the performance of his defence.
Champions League disappointment
The champions' back line was actually strengthened during the summer with F.Y.R. Macedonia central defender Milan Stojanoski signing as a replacement for the outgoing Georgos Amanatides. The 31-year-old played nine games during FK Partizan's UEFA Champions League run last season, and added two more for his new club before APOEL were beaten by AC Sparta Praha in the second qualifying round.
Not to be outdone by their rivals, cup holders Larnaca have brought in a Macedonian defender of their own in former APOEL player Goran Lazarevski. He will be joined at the club by Sasa Drakulic who, like Neophytou, also opened his account for his new club in the Super Cup. The 32-year-old Serbia and Montenegro striker moved from Korean side Seongnam Ilhwa FC.
Andreas Mouskallis's side are likely to be joined by AC Omonia in the battle to wrest the Cypriot crown from APOEL. The most successful outfit in the country's history - they have 19 titles to APOEL's 18 - have replaced Toni Savevski with the 56-year-old Pole Franciszek Smuda, who immediately impressed an Eastern European influence on the side with the signings of experienced Croatian striker Robert Spehar from R. Standard de Liège and Macedonian international midfield player Vlatko Grozdanovski from FK Vardar.
In addition, Hungarian goalkeeper Adam Vezer joined from second division Anagennises Dherynias FC, while Marios Themistocleous arrived from Olympiakos Nicosia FC. Olympiakos immediately replaced the striker with Zimbabwean international Zenzo Moyo, who is one of seven new faces at the club.
Another club under a new coach, Apollon Limassol FC, are also expected to challenge this season. Soullis Papadopoulos will be looking to build on the side's third-placed finish and has brought in fellow Greek Makis Sidiropoulos and Bosnia-Herzegovnian left-back Teo Kresic to shore up the defence. Apolllon also have the fresh striking partnership of Mladen Rudonja and Albanian forward Rolan Zaimi.
The three newly promoted sides this season are Nea Salamina FC, Aris Limassol FC and Alki Larnaca FC - and all could face a struggle to avoid relegation.
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