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Panathinaikos respectful but ready

Published: Wednesday 20 October 2004, 13.09CET
Panathinaikos FC will not be overawed by the achievements of Arsène Wenger at Arsenal FC.

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Published: Wednesday 20 October 2004, 13.09CET

Panathinaikos respectful but ready

Panathinaikos FC will not be overawed by the achievements of Arsène Wenger at Arsenal FC.

By Paris Ayiomamatis in Athens

New Panathinaikos FC coach Zdenek Scasny has said he feels deep admiration for Arsenal FC's unbeaten Premiership record but insists his side will not be overawed when the English champions visit the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium for this UEFA Champions League Group E tie on Wednesday.

'Best in Europe'
Arsenal are undefeated in their past 49 Premiership matches and travel to Athens top of Group E after beating PSV Eindhoven 1-0 on Matchday 1 then drawing 1-1 at Rosenborg BK. "In my opinion, they are the best team in Europe," Scasny said. "We're not stressed and we're not frightened, but we know what we're up against. Their unbeaten run says it all."

'Defending key'
Scasny said Arsenal are impressive on all fronts, especially in the way they attack, and told his players that good defending will be the key if they are to take all three points. "To win you must play well in defence and not concede a goal otherwise it will be extremely difficult. We must not forget who we are playing against. Anyone who thinks we can play all out attack against Arsenal is mistaken. In the same way, it will be a mistake to play all out defence. We must find the middle ground."

Victory crucial
Panathinaikos beat Arsenal when the two sides last met in Athens in 2001/02, and are just one point behind the London side now. But after losing away to PSV Eindhoven on Matchday 2, they know that taking points here and at Highbury on Matchday 4 will be crucial to their prospects of advancing to the next phase.

Injury problems
Scasny is in charge for his first Champions League match after replacing Itzhak Shum as Panathinaikos coach earlier this month. And he will be looking to lift his side after a goalless draw at the weekend with Egaleo FC that allowed AEK Athens FC to move level with his side at the top of the Greek league.

Papadopoulos out
But Scasny's problems have been compounded by a series of injuries, particularly in attack. The Greek champions are without top scorer Dimitrios Papadopoulos, who has a leg injury, while Emmanuel Olisadebe, who scored in Panathinaikos's 2-1 defeat at Highbury in 2001/02, is not fit to start despite returning as a substitute against Egaleo after a long injury absence. Scasny is expected to partner Michalis Konstantinou with Swedish striker Njogu Demba.

Basinas back
In midfield, Raimondas Zutautas, Srdan Andric and Lucian Sanmartean are all injured, but Scasny welcomes back influential Greek international Angelos Basinas who has recovered from a back injury. German left-back Markus Münch is also doubtful because of a nagging muscle injury.

Vieira out
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger also has injuries to contend with, notably the absence of Patrick Vieira who twisted his ankle in Saturday's 3-1 defeat of Aston Villa FC. Gilberto Silva, Gaël Clichy and Dennis Bergkamp are also unavailable, but Fredrik Ljungberg should return after missing Saturday's win with a hamstring problem. Wenger will choose between Edu, and youngsters Cesc Fabregas and Matthieu Flamini to fill the central midfield places.

'More clinical'
Despite his injury concerns, Wenger announced he was looking for three points in Athens. "The fact we missed capitalising at Rosenborg makes Panathinaikos more important," he said. "We know they play on a small ground with a hot atmosphere so we will have to be more clinical than we were at Rosenborg. When we were 1-0 up there we were little bit too restrictive in our attitude. We did not kill the game off. We'll have to show we have learnt from that."

Last updated: 20/10/04 17.51CET