“Thursday night, ITV4, Thursday night, ITV4”. Doesn’t scan does it? It’s Europa League Group J time though as we take on Panathinaikos in the Olympic Stadium in Athens this Thursday, kick off 18:00 our time I believe.
The Greek side have had a fairly hum drum start to their domestic league season with a win, a loss and three draws. Their only Europa League match thus far ended in defeat, to Maribor in the first round of games a fortnight ago. A 3-0 thumping in Slovenia will have dented confidence but also given them an urgency coming into this game. Another loss here might spell disaster for them even with only two games gone so we can maybe hope that they’ll feel they need a result and come at us thus leaving room behind them, though no doubt coach Jesualdo Ferreira (the man in charge at Porto immediately before AVB by the way) will have seen a video at least of our scratching of the 23 year itch at the weekend and be prepared for the old ‘whippets on the break’ routine.
2012 has been something of a duff year for our Shamrock sporting opponents with money and crowd behaviour causing problems on and off the pitch. After riots when they played Olympiakos last season they were fined a fortune, had points deducted both last season and this and also were forced to play several games behind closed doors. Now there’s a club with issues should Paul Jiggins be feeling the need to write a follow-up article.
A scan of the English version of their official website reveals that they don’t appear to have many familiar faces in their ranks with former Magpie Jean-Alain Boumsong and an early victim/star of the failed Wenger mould-’em-while-they’re-young experiment Quincy Owusu-Abeyie most likely to ring a bell. Speaking of Woolwich, they’re the only English side that Panathinaikos have had a positive result against in 16 attempts. Mind you, our record against Greek sides isn’t stellar with only one win in four games.
One of the striking things about the leadership of Villas-Boas so far has been his positivity and it is very refreshing to feel that this tournament, despite its duration, complexity and unfairness is being viewed as one we can win rather than a nuisance. There’ll be a mixture of probables and possibles on display, some players will need to be/should be rested but perhaps not all of the ones who need it most given the lack of suitable and fit replacements. We can expect to see Huddlestone, Dawson, Sigurdsson, Lloris of course, Townsend and maybe Smith, Falque or Mason. I don’t know how near Naughton, Livermore or Adebayor are but they’ll play a part probably if ready.
Personally I’ve been floating since Saturday evening, I’m sure AVB has too. It was a great ‘spin on this’ result for him and the team to build on. The right selection and attitude is important here, we don’t want to risk a PAOK in the eye having only drawn against the neanderthal (kick ’em out I say) monkey chanters at WHL.
The officials are from Germany. COYS.
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