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Panathinaikos suffer reality check

Published: Tuesday 7 December 2004, 9.39CET
Panthinaikos FC must beat PSV Eindhoven and hope Arsenal FC drop points if they are to qualify from Group E.
Published: Tuesday 7 December 2004, 9.39CET

Panathinaikos suffer reality check

Panthinaikos FC must beat PSV Eindhoven and hope Arsenal FC drop points if they are to qualify from Group E.

By Paris Ayiomamitis in Athens

Panathinaikos FC welcome Group E leaders PSV Eindhoven to Athens knowing that their chances of progressing to the knockout stages hinge on the result of the group's other match between Arsenal FC and Rosenborg BK.

'Win and hope'
The Greek champions sit a point behind Arsenal and know that a win will secure them second place only if the London club fail to beat the eliminated Norwegian champions. As for PSV, the visitors need only a point to secure first place in the group. "We are well aware that qualification is not in our hands," said Panathinaikos coach Zdenek Šcasný. "It will be very difficult for Arsenal to drop points at home. Nevertheless we must win tomorrow and hope. That's not to say it won't be difficult. It's no coincidence that PSV lead the group"

Lost to rivals
The Czech trainer came under harsh criticism for Saturday's 1-0 domestic league loss to arch-rivals Olympiacos CFP which cost Panathinaikos first place in the table - they fell three points behind their opponents - and raised concerns about player morale ahead of the meeting with PSV.

Motivation
However, Šcasný insisted his men would not be lacking motivation. "It's a matter of prestige. We definitely we want to win but I'm sure we would be looking at a different match if our chances didn't depend on others." Greek international midfielder Angelos Basinas, a doubtful starter due to a groin complaint, agreed with his coach but stressed Panathinaikos still had much to gain. "Losing to Olympiacos was a blow to our morale but the only way to overcome this is to win the next match. So that's another motive for us.

'Out of our hands'
"I don't think we have much chance to progress to the next stage. It upsets us that it is out of our hands but that doesn't mean we don't want to win the match. We must win and wait for the other result." The subdued mood after the derby defeat - another setback following the disappointing draw at Rosenborg on Matchday 4 - has been reflected by slow ticket sales for Tuesday night's match. However, Basinas warned it would be "wrong if our supporters don't come to the match".

PSV miss players
Save for concerns over Basinas's fitness, Šcasný will have a full squad at his disposal. The same cannot be said of his Dutch counterpart, Gus Hiddink, who is without the injured striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, midfielders John de Jong and Theo Lucius, and defender Kasper Bøgelund. Hiddink said he would not be taking any risks: "Only those that are 100 percent fit will play. But this does not mean we will not try to win."

Slim chance
Hiddink acknowledged that Panathinaikos have only a slim chance of progressing, commenting: "Panathinaikos have lost the right to control the outcome of their campaign and I don't think Arsenal will let the chance slip."

Defensive record
Of course, there are no such worries for Hiddink's men who are enjoying a fine run of form that has earned them qualification for the group stage for the first time as well as a new defensive record in the Dutch Eredivisie. PSV go into this match on the back of a 4-0 thumping of bottom-placed De Graafschap which broke AFC Ajax's 33-year-old record of going 1082 minutes without conceding a goal.

Last updated: 07/12/04 10.33CET

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