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By Stewart Clark in Trondheim
New Rosenborg BK coach Per Joar Hansen has not given up hope of reaching the UEFA Champions League knockout stages despite going into Wednesday's tie against Greek champions Panathinaikos FC bottom of Group E with just one point from four matches.
'Hungry for success'
"We are not just motivated, we are hungry for success," said Hansen, who is taking charge of his first Champions League match since replacing Ola By Rise as coach last month. "The players, myself and the whole club are looking forward to a victory. Now we have to get three points. Perhaps even four, we still have two matches to play," he added, with perhaps a more realistic eye on the UEFA Cup spot available for finishing third.
Rosenborg are no strangers to success in Norway, where they won their 13th consecutive domestic title last month, but in the Champions League it is a different story. "We have not won a Champions League match since 2001," Hansen admitted. That was against Celtic FC, 2-0 in October 2001, but Hansen believes Panathinakos could be Rosenborg's first victims in 12 group-stage attempts. "We are difficult to beat at home," he said, pointing to a single defeat from Rosenborg's past five matches at the Lerkendal stadium.
Indeed, English Premiership champions Arsenal FC found this out to their cost on Matchday 2 when they were held to a 1-1 draw, Rosenborg's only point to date. But Hansen does not think freezing weather conditions favour his side. "Rosenborg's winter advantage is a myth," he said. "We know that Panathinaikos are a good team and we just hope they allow us to play our own way. We can beat anyone at Lerkendal." Hansen's hopes have been lifted by the return to fitness of Rosenborg midfield player Jan Gunnar Solli after a leg injury, leaving only Ørjan Berg (knee) and Christer Basma (heel) still out.
Panathinaikos, who defeated Rosenborg 2-1 on Matchday 1, held Arsenal to draws in their past two Group E matches and are top of the Hellenic National League after overcoming Kallithea FC 1-0 on Saturday. Marcus Münch (knee) and Dimitrios Papadopoulos (ankle) are the only injury doubts concerning Panathinaikos coach Zdenek Scasny.
In contrast to Hansen, Scasny's major concern in Trondheim is the weather and he believes freezing temperatures would be a major factor. "The pitch has a hard surface but is soft underneath," Scasny said. "The freezing temperature is not an advantage for us, Rosenborg are used to such conditions. It is rare for us to play football while it is snowing."
However, after battling back to draw away against Arsenal on Matchday 4, Scasny is optimistic his side can collect at least one more important point on their travels. "It is going to be a 50-50 match," Scasny said. "I just hope we can play as well as we did at Highbury. Rosenborg are one of the best teams in Scandinavia, and are very well organized at set pieces. They were very unlucky in their last game against us."
Panathinaikos are just one point behind second-placed Arsenal, who travel to face group leaders PSV Eindhoven in the other Group E match. Another win against Rosenborg would set things up nicely for the Greek champions' final tie at home against PSV - and Scasny has been given another reason for confidence. According to weather reports the cold snap is about to break, and rain, rather than snow may be the order of the day in Trondheim.
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