Villarreal CF have yet to lose at home in the UEFA Champions League and will be looking to protect that statistic when they face a Panathinaikos FC team who found their form away from home at the end of the group stage.
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Villarreal CF will be defending an impressive home record in the UEFA Champions League when they take on Panathinaikos FC in the first knockout round first leg. The last time they were at this stage the Spanish club continued their journey, their competition debut, all the way to the semi-finals but they need to be wary of their opponents' new-found away form in the competition.
• In Group E Villarreal won two home games and drew the other as they finished in second place on nine points, one behind Manchester United FC. They maintained a proud record of never having lost a UEFA Champions League fixture at El Madrigal. Including the 2005/06 third qualifying round they have collected five wins and five draws at their home ground in Europe's elite competition. Villarreal lost just one game in the group this time round, going down 2-0 away to Celtic FC on Matchday 6 with qualification already assured.
• Their previous appearance in the first knockout round, in 2005/06, brought a tie with Rangers FC. Villarreal drew 2-2 away with a 1-1 second-leg scoreline at El Madrigal proving enough to take Manuel Pellegrini's side through on away goals.
• Villarreal and Panathinaikos have never previously met in UEFA club competition and the Spanish team have only faced Greek opponents twice before, winning both games. At home in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage they beat Egaleo FC 4-0 with Javi Venta and Santi Cazorla both on the scoresheet. They reached the quarter-finals that season before losing 3-2 on aggregate to AZ Alkmaar, going down 2-1 in the home leg.
• In the 2007/08 UEFA Cup Villarreal travelled to AEK Athens FC in the group stage and won 2-1. Their interest in the competition ended in the Round of 32 when they lost on away goals to eventual winners FC Zenit St. Petersburg.
• Panathinaikos ended Group B in fine style, taking maximum points from their last three fixtures to clinch a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage for the first time in seven years. Their first three games in their eighth UEFA Champions League campaign had yielded just a single point.
• The finish included impressive away wins, 3-0 against Werder Bremen and 1-0 against FC Internazionale Milano, which ended a long run without success on opponents' grounds. Their two previous UEFA Champions League campaigns had not brought a single away win and their last victory on their travels in the competition proper had come in December 2003 with a 3-1 triumph at Rangers FC, a sequence of seven winless games which contained five defeats and two draws.
• Panathinaikos' other away game in the group ended in a 3-1 defeat at Anorthosis Famagusta FC. Revenge came with a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture at the OACA Spiro Louis Stadium on Matchday 6 which sealed Henk ten Cate's side's qualification as group winners on ten points, two ahead of Inter. Their other home games brought a 2-0 defeat against the Italian champions and a 2-2 draw with Bremen.
• Panathinaikos have lost on each of their nine visits to Spain in UEFA club competition, all of them since 1999. The Greens scored five goals in that period while conceding 23, with all but two of the matches taking place in the UEFA Champions League. In a total of 17 games against Spanish opponents, home and away, the Athens club have won three, drawn five and lost nine.
• Heavy defeats came at the home of FC Barcelona (5-0) in the 2005/06 group stage and Real Madrid CF (3-0) in the 2001/02 second group stage. Their last trip to Spain, in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup group stage, ended in a 2-1 loss at Club Atlético de Madrid.
• The Greek team's last involvement in a knockout tie in Europe's premier club competition resulted in defeat at the hands of a Spanish side with Barcelona's 3-1 victory at the Camp Nou in the 2001/02 quarter-finals taking them through after the game in Greece had ended in a 1-0 win for Panathinaikos.
• Their only previous knockout round games in the competition had come in 1995/96 when they beat Legia Warszawa 3-0 at home in the quarter-final decider after a goalless first leg. Panathinaikos succumbed to AFC Ajax in the last four despite winning 1-0 in Amsterdam in the first game, losing 3-0 at home – still the only time in UEFA Champions League history a team has won away in the first leg and lost the tie.
• Pascal Cygan has unhappy memories of Panathinaikos while playing for Arsenal FC, the defender putting through his own net at Highbury to give the visitors a 1-1 draw in the 2004/05 group stage. Robert Pirès also played for the English club in that game and in the reverse fixture in Athens two weeks previously, which finished 2-2.
• Panathinaikos players Nikos Spiropoulos, Giorgos Karagounis and Dimitris Salpingidis started for Greece in their 2-1 defeat by Spain in Salzburg in UEFA EURO 2008™ Group D. Alexandros Tzorvas and Giannis Goumas were on the bench. For Spain, Santi Cazorla came on in the 58th minute while Joan Capdevila and Marcos Senna were unused substitutes.
• The second leg is at the OACA Spiros Louis Stadium on 10 March.