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UEFA Champions League

  • November 24, 2010
  • • 19:45
  • • Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis, Athína (Athens)
  • Referee: G. Rocchi
  • • Attendance: 58466
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Champions League Preview: Panathinaikos – Barcelona

Champions League Preview: Panathinaikos – Barcelona

The Shamrock will be hoping for a little luck of the Irish when they meet la Blaugrana on Wednesday night...

Turbulent Times

As the business end of the Champions League group stages approaches, Panathinaikos are in something of a state of flux as they welcome Barcelona to Athens for what is a fixture of vital importance for both teams.

Pana’s approach to the game has been difficult. Little over a week ago they parted company with head coach Nikos Nioplias via mutual agreement, despite sitting joint top of the Greek Super League. Jesualdo Ferreira has since been installed as the club’s coach, though he wasn’t in charge when they defeated Iraklis 4-2 at the weekend, rallying after slipping two goals down in the first quarter of the game.

Ferreira will have had ample opportunity to have studied Barcelona from closer quarters than Greece over the last few months as he was until recently the coach of Primera Division side Malaga, who were quick to sack him after a disappointing run of results led them into the drop zone.

But there have been other issues for the hierarchy of the club to mop up. French attacker Sidney Govou has reportedly been censored for his frequent enjoyment of the capital’s night life, with some sources hinting that the player who opened the scoring at Camp Nou earlier this season could be sacked from the club.

All this has rather detracted from the mammoth task at hand, which is to belie their fourth placed ranking and overcome Barca. Traditionally strong at the OAKA, where they have lost just three of their last 56 domestic league matches, Pana have already slipped 2-0 against Copenhagen and drawn 0-0 with Rubin Kazan.

Playing For Top Spot


European champions in 2009, Barcelona have endured a surprisingly difficult group stage campaign to date. Though they sit top of Group D on eight points, Copenhagen have surprisingly pushed them hard for the headline billing, with away draws in Denmark and against Rubin Kazan ensuring that an entirely smooth campaign has not been possible.

At home, Barca have rubbished talk of their demise, shooting an impressive seven points clear of the main body of sides in La Liga, though trailing Real Madrid heading into next Monday’s Clasico, which is to the forefront of the nation’s mind, despite this testing trip to Greece.

Pep Guardiola’s men showed that they will not be distracted by the prolonged build-up to the Camp Nou clash by simply annihilating Almeria last Saturday. Barca struck eight times in total without reply, with Lionel Messi typically the star of the show in grabbing three, though the supporting cast of Catalan club also flexed their muscles impressively.

Bojan Krkic was one of those who impressed, though he is now focussing on Pana. “Wednesday is a key game for us. The Madrid game will come around soon enough,” he told the media.

“They are a hard team and they’ll make it hard for us. We are playing for the top spot in the group.”

First position should ensure an easier passage through to the quarter-finals, and with a packed schedule forthcoming, Guardiola will want to ensure that Barca’s journey is made as simple as possible.


TEAM NEWS

Panathinaikos


Giorgos Karagounis is the main absentee for the Shamrock. He is suspended.

Jean-Alain Boumsong has overcome an injury concern and should start, while Sotiris Ninis will be in the squad. Sebastian Leto has a knee injury.

Barcelona

Jeffren Suarez is available after nearly a month out, but Eric Abidal hasn’t yet been cleared to play, though the Frenchman has travelled in a squad of 20. Definitely omitted are suspended goalkeeper Jose Pinto and the injured Gabriel Milito.

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Players to watch

Luis García

Position: Midfielder

Games: 0

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
Luis Garcia is a graduate of Barcelona’s La Masia academy and will surely relish the opportunity to match up against his formative club. The 32-year-old played for several seasons out on loan before finally graduating to Barca’s top team in 2003-04, but this affair was to be fleeting as he was quickly shifted to Liverpool. A player who has never made an especially prolonged impression at any club, he could have history at his toes on Wednesday.

Pedro

Position: Attacker

Games: 6

  • 0
  • 1
  • 0
Prior to Saturday, it seemed that Lionel Messi and David Villa were the only players scoring for Barca, but there are signs that Pedro is starting to hit his stride too. The 23-year-old attacker has found the net twice in his last three matches and also has an assist to boot. A player who boasts an excellent finishing instinct, he could be the man to pounce if Panathinaikos direct their attentions too much elsewhere.

Editor's Prediction

Barcelona were in irresistible form on Saturday evening and though they have El Clasico in their minds, there can be little doubt that they start as favourites to win this game. Jesualdo Ferreira’s appointment may give Pana a little kick, but not sufficiently to worry the Spaniards.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Panathinaikos

Barcelona

Wins
0
1
4
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Panathinaikos FC PAO
Panathinaikos FC Panathinaikos
Draw
FC Barcelona FCB
FC Barcelona Barcelona
84%

Top 3 Predictions

Panathinaikos FC PAO
0 - 3
FC Barcelona FCB
Panathinaikos FC PAO
1 - 3
FC Barcelona FCB
Panathinaikos FC PAO
0 - 4
FC Barcelona FCB

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