Panathinaikos FC will have a double point to prove in tonight's UEFA Champions League Group C encounter against AC Sparta Praha at the Letná stadium in Prague. New coach Sergio Markarian will be keen to impress in his first Champions League match in charge of the Greek side, while the players will be looking to score their first goal of the second group stage.
Despite winning their last six Ethniki Kartigoria matches, Panathinaikos failed to find the target against FC Porto and Real Madrid CF in their previous Group C matches and will be hoping to remedy their goal-shy tendencies tonight. Sparta, fresh from the Czech 1. liga's winter break, will be keen to protect an impressive Champions League record that has seen them lose only two of their eight matches so far (against Madrid and holders FC Bayern München).
Panathinaikos, playing for only the second time against Czech opposition, are without defender Panagiotis Fissas because of a one-match suspension. Recent signing Robert Jarni only finds a place on the bench and is joined by Polish international striker Emmanuel Olisadebe. Influential midfield player Giorgios Karagounis is likely to pull the strings in the centre, while Minas Pitsos, added to Markarian's Champions League squad for Matchday Nine, also plays.
For Sparta, preparing for their debut against a Greek side, Pavel Mareš and leading goalscorer Radim Holub both miss out with knee injuries but central defender Tomás Hübschmann has recovered and is fit to take his place in the starting eleven. Pavel Zavadil, signed recently from FK Drnovice, is included in coach Jaroslav Hrebík's team, while fellow new recruit Tomáš Cízek is on the bench.
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