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By Paris Ayiomamitis in Athens
Panathinaikos FC coach Itzhak Shum made an appeal to the club's fans to support their team ahead of their all-important UEFA Champions League match against VfB Stuttgart.
'Be there for us'
"We are calling on the fans to be there for us," the Panathinaikos coach said. "We want them to be our 12th player against Stuttgart. It's a crucial match and they should stand by us in both good times and bad."
Whether Shum's words have the desired effect remains to be seen as ticket sales on Monday were below average as supporters seemed determined to carry out a threat to boycott the match in protest at their team's below-par displays domestically and in Europe.
With the Greek side having taken just one point from three matches so far to lie bottom of Group E - and having suffered a 2-0 defeat in Germany two weeks ago - Shum knows that anything less than three points against the section leaders will effectively spell the end of their slender hopes of qualifying for the knockout phase.
Defeat, coupled with a win for Manchester United FC against Rangers FC in the group's other encounter, will put qualification beyond Panathinaikos's reach, although the Greek side are able to welcome back Greek international defender Giannis Goumas from suspension.
'Do or die'
"It's do or die for us," Shum went on. "It's the most important match for us in the Champions League so far.
If we win we still have hope. If we lose, all will be lost while a draw may still keep us alive in the chase for third place."
Top of the table
Stuttgart, meanwhile, have begun the new season in impressive form and moved top of the Bundesliga at the weekend with a 4-1 win at home to SC Freiburg, a fact that is not lost on Shum. "Stuttgart are the best team in the group and all my players will have to give 100 per cent," the coach said. "And I'm confident they will."
'State of confusion'
Despite securing a comfortable victory in Germany, Felix Magath is wary of taking the home side too lightly. "
I expect Panathinaikos to be better as they are playing at home and it is their last chance," the Stuttgart coach said. "However, they are in a state of confusion and we will try to capitalise."
The German side will be without Marcelo Bordon after the Brazilian defender underwent surgery to cure a groin injury on Monday, ruling him out until the new year. Magath must also decide whether to field Ioannis Amanatidis in attack or stick with Imre Szabics.
However, Magath has fond memories of Athens, having scored the only goal of the game in Hamburger SV's 1-0 win against Juventus FC in the 1983 European Champion Clubs' Cup final in the Greek capital, and is relishing his return to the city. "It always feels great to be in Athens," he said. "I hope I feel the same after the game."
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