Panathinaikos was excluded against Belgian side Standard Liege last season from Champions League qualifiers, but this time they will once again have to play against the Belgian team – Club Brugge. They later on reached the group stage of Europa League, but didn’t manage to get a single victory so surely this time they are determined to make some progress outside the Greek borders.
However, their biggest problem for the qualifying matches will be the fact that the Greek championship didn’t start and actually, is one of championships in Europe which start the latest. Last regular part of the season they ended up being third, but thanks to additional play-off stage, they secured the Champions League ticket in which they played greatly and secured it even before the last round. Surely that their biggest ambition for this season would be to take the domestic title, even though they surely aren’t the best team looking by the players names. Team signed experienced Sanchez from Malaga and Wemmer from Paderborn to reinforce their defensive lineup, while defensive midfielder Essien was also signed, but right now is injured and won’t perform here. Apart from a 10:0 victory against amateur side Arnheim, they played really badly during friendly matches, losing to Udinese, Ajax and interestingly, Club Brugge by 2:1 result. Hosts will miss defensive midfielder Essien as said, but also forward Klonaridis and defenders Nano and Thelander.
Club Brugge ended as second the previous Belgian championship, even though the team was firstly placed for the most of the season. This already means that the team was disappointed at the end, even though they took the Cup competition and reached, more than solid quarter-finals of Europa League prior that.
In comparison to Panathinaikos, they already have two official games now, but both ended in a disappointing way. Firstly they lost the Super Cup game against Gent, being outplayed from first till last minute, but only suffered narrow 1:0 defeat even though the final result should have been much bigger victory for their opponent. They didn’t start well in the domestic league as well, losing to St Truiden away from home 2:1, despite leading 1:0 at the halftime. It’s obvious that they have big problems at the start of season as they have many new players, but also due the fact that many are injured. Midfielder Rafaelov won’t be playing this one, but also midfielders Claudermir, Gedoz, forward Ibini-Isei and defenders Engels and Meunier, as well as goalkeeper Bolat, all due injuries.
Neither of these teams are in perfect form so early in the season. Knowing both of them, they will probably be both oriented to defensive tasks and won’t be under pressure to score in first leg. PAO might be little closer to make a positive result, but the game is actually written 0:0 all over it, so my choice goes with very little number of goals.
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