Panathinaikos FC's UEFA Champions League campaign starts now according toHenk Ten Cate as the Greek club attempt to get off the mark in Group B against a Werder Bremen team who are hoping to end a barren away run.
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Panathinaikos FC's UEFA Champions League campaign starts now according to Henk Ten Cate as the Greek side attempt to get off the mark in Group B, facing Werder Bremen at the OACA Spiro Louis Stadium.
After two defeats the pressure is on Panathinaikos against a Bremen team who are unbeaten after beginning their challenge with back-to-back draws, including a creditable 1-1 scoreline against FC Internazionale Milano at San Siro three weeks ago. By contrast, Ten Cate's men followed up a 2-0 home defeat by Inter with a 3-1 reverse at dark horses Anorthosis Famagusta FC in Cyprus, although the coach remains in confident mood. "It's the perfect opportunity for us to get some points on the board, and it's about time," said the Dutchman. "Analysing past matches too much is a bit like trying to open already opened doors. But overall I believe we deserved something from both games we have played so far. That's football, though. Matches are often decided in a matter of seconds."
Ten Cate, who has Gilberto available after international duty and midfield talisman Giorgos Karagounis back to fitness, saw his side fail to break down PAOK FC in a goalless Super League draw on Sunday. Yet the former Chelsea FC assistant coach can take heart from Bremen's tendency to underperform on their travels. "Werder don't have a good record away from home so let's hope we can keep it that way," Ten Cate said, before conceding that the German team's attack pose a real threat. "They have some very dangerous players, not only [Claudio] Pizarro. Diego and [Torsten] Frings are other good players we will have to keep a close eye on. We have Karagounis back, though, and he is very important to us. He's a clever, intelligent player who really helps the inexperienced players in the squad."
For Schaaf's men, Wednesday's showdown represents an opportunity to cement their claim to one of the two qualifying spots. Optimism is tempered by the fact Bremen have won only one of their last 12 away games in the competition, and Schaaf admitted things need to change if they are to enjoy UEFA Champions League success. "It's clear we have to improve on our away form," he said. "I don't feel there is any particular reason we haven't performed away from home – we just haven't got the results our football deserved. We must do the practical, everyday things well and impose ourselves."
Bremen, who drew 3-3 at home to BV Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, are deprived of goalkeeper Tim Wiese, Daniel Jensen and Aaron Hunt through injury. Wiese will be replaced by Christian Vander, the man who twice deputised for Bremen's No1 in the UEFA Champions League last season. Schaaf is not worried by the absences, however. "This is why we have a big squad with a lot of quality players," he said. "Panathinaikos are a good team and they had their moments against Inter – the result maybe wasn't a true reflection. So we are facing very strong opponents who are fighting for a chance to earn three important points."