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PAOK v Chelsea facts

PAOK have never lost to English opposition, although that record is under threat from Chelsea, unbeaten against Greek clubs.

PAOK are defending a fine record against English sides
PAOK are defending a fine record against English sides ©AFP

Two domestic cup holders kick off their UEFA Europa League Group L campaign in an intriguing match-up in Salonika as PAOK, who have never lost to English opposition, host Chelsea, who are undefeated against teams from Greece.

Previous meetings
• Although the teams have never met, they both have favourable records against opposition from the other's country, each winning two and drawing two of their four matches.

• At home PAOK have won one and drawn one against English clubs – both from London – and are yet to concede, whereas Chelsea have held their hosts to draws on both their previous two trips to Greece.

Form guide
• PAOK enjoyed a successful 2017/18 on the domestic front, atoning for a rare early exit in Europe – they lost to Swedish debutants Östersund in the UEFA Europa League play-offs – by retaining the Greek Cup and finishing runners-up to AEK Athens in the Superleague.

• They harboured high hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time this season when they knocked out Basel and Spartak Moskva in qualifying ties and then held Benfica 1-1 in Lisbon in the first leg of their play-off – only to suffer a second-leg 1-4 defeat in Salonika.

• That means they have extended their record of having participated in every season of the UEFA Europa League to a tenth successive year. They have reached the group stage in six previous campaigns, four of which have extended into the knockout phase but never beyond the round of 32. Schalke were the most recent team to end their interest at that juncture with a 4-1 aggregate win in 2016/17.

• The Salonika side are unbeaten at home on matchday one (W2 D2), one of those draws having come against Tottenham in 2011/12 (0-0). However, they have won just once at home in their last nine fixtures in the UEFA Europa League proper (D4 L4).

Top ten goals of the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League season

• Chelsea could finish only fifth in defence of their Premier League title last season, but they booked a first ever place in the UEFA Europa League group stage twice over by also winning the FA Cup for the eighth time, defeating Manchester United 1-0 in the final.

• Although the west London side are new to this stage of the UEFA Europa League, they won the competition on their only previous participation, in 2013, having crossed over to the knockout phase in mid-season from the UEFA Champions League. Their route to the final, where they defeated Benfica 2-1, incorporated two wins and two defeats on their travels.

• Chelsea are without a win in four European matches following their UEFA Champions League round of 16 exit to Barcelona last season. They have lost two of their last three continental away fixtures 3-0.

Links and trivia 
• PAOK trio Chuba Akpom, José Ángel Crespo and José Alberto Cañas have all played in the English Premier League.

• Akpom played alongside Olivier Giroud at Arsenal in 2014/15 while PAOK's Omar El Kaddouri was a team-mate of Jorginho at Napoli from the summer of 2015 to December 2016.

The coaches
• The son of Mircea Lucescu, Bucharest-born Răzvan spent most of his career as a goalkeeper with clubs from the Romanian capital. As a coach, he enjoyed early success with Rapid Bucureşti, winning back-to-back domestic cups and also steering the club into the UEFA Cup quarter-finals. He then had two years in charge of the Romanian national team, but it was in Greece that he further enhanced his reputation, firstly with Xanthi, then as a Greek Cup winner and league runner-up in his debut season at PAOK.

• Named as the new Chelsea boss in succession to his fellow Italian, Antonio Conte, in July 2018, Maurizio Sarri is widely considered to be one of Europe's most progressive coaches. He paid his dues in Italy's lower leagues with a multitude of clubs before getting his big break at Empoli, whom he steered into Serie A, before replacing Rafael Benítez at Napoli in 2015. Three seasons in Naples all brought top-three finishes, his entertaining side running Juventus close for the Scudetto in 2017/18.