By Paris Ayiomamatis in Athens
Panathinaikos FC are vowing to produce a transformed performance from their 5-0 defeat at Manchester United FC when they tackle Rangers FC in Athens on Wednesday.
Rangers will provide a stern test after their 2-1 opening victory against VfB Stuttgart, but Panathinaikos coach Itzhak Shum believes his team have learned some important lessons from their mistakes in Manchester, and are ready to maintain their proud record of having never lost at home in the UEFA Champions League.
"We have learnt from our errors and we will not repeat them," Shum said. "It is very important for us to win." Certainly their domestic form points to that - Panathinaikos lead the Alpha Ethiniki having won four and drawn one of their five league matches - and Shum insists what occurred on Matchday 1 may not be typical.
Fortress Old Trafford
"I do not know any team that has won at Old Trafford in recent times," said the Israeli coach, whose former side Maccabi Haifa FC also conceded five at United last season. "No one expects to win there. Besides, we knew we would have to look to the other three teams in the group for points."
Rangers manager Alex McLeish was in agreement. "United can do that to anybody," he said. "They have a great Champions League pedigree. That was not the real Panathinaikos."
'Strong and technical'
McLeish's team lead the way in the Scottish Premier League with a 100 per cent record from seven matches ahead of Saturday's Old Firm derby against Celtic FC. The Glasgow club have an admirer in Shum, who said: "I saw Rangers against Stuttgart. They are a very strong and technical team with a very good midfield and forward line."
For Panathinaikos's first meeting with a Scottish club, Danish international defender René Henriksen is absent with a leg injury and Polish forward Emmanuel Olisadebe is recovering from knee surgery, meaning Cypriot international Michalis Konstantinou plays up front. "Injuries are a part of the game," Shum said.
The visitors themselves have never won in Greece; their last encounter with a Greek team resulted in two defeats by AEK Athens FC in the 1994/95 UEFA Cup. Rangers, well versed in playing in front of passionate supporters, are expecting a lively atmosphere.
"We relish this sort of atmosphere, everyone should," said McLeish. Defender Craig Moore echoed his manager's sentiments, saying: "As a player it is great to play in front of that sort of atmosphere. It is going to be extremely tough for us. The result at Old Trafford was freakish."
Although he stressed his team will aim for all three points, McLeish said "a draw would not be a bad result". With Rangers' next two matches being against United, avoiding defeat in Athens could prove extremely valuable for the Scottish champions.
'Nothing to prove'
None the less, it is Panathinaikos whose need for points is even more acute. "We desperately need the three points to have any hope of qualifying to the next phase," said left-back Giourkas Seitaridis. "The result at Old Trafford was a very bad one but we must leave it behind us. We have nothing to prove to anyone. Our European performances in recent years speak for themselves."
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