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Preview: PSV v Panathinaikos

"It could be a difficult evening," warned coach Phillip Cocu as PSV Eindhoven take on a Dutch-accented Panathinaikos FC side in UEFA Europa League Group E.

Phillip Cocu knows Panathinaikos will be no pushover
Phillip Cocu knows Panathinaikos will be no pushover ©Getty Images

There are plenty of links between PSV Eindhoven and Panathinaikos FC as the sides square up on UEFA Europa League matchday three, with coach Phillip Cocu warning his players they need to avoid any complicated entanglements.

Cocu featured as a player in the clubs' only previous meetings, when they traded home wins in the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League group stage, and while the Greens are yet to take a point in Group E, the 43-year-old knows to expect a stern examination from a team led by former Roda JC and AFC Ajax player Giannis Anastasiou.

"It is always nice to play against a team with a Dutch influence – that gives it something extra – but it could be a difficult evening. They are fighting for their last chance, and have an experienced squad who know how to play these matches. We have to be ready."

Panathinaikos are likely to be without their former PSV striker Marcus Berg due to a shoulder injury, while several other players will find themselves up against erstwhile club-mates. David Mendes, Danijel Pranjić and the injured Emir Bajrami (back) have plied their trade in the Netherlands, though the hosts' 19-year-old central defender Karim Rekik is not too concerned. "They have a good team, but we can win this match," he said.

PSV, third in the section on three points, hope to welcome back Memphis Depay after a groin problem as they aim for the round of 32. "We have to take our chances," said Cocu, who will be without Oscar Hiljemark (hip), Stijn Schaars (knee) and Georginio Wijnaldum (knee). "It is important to win your home games. PSV have come on since last year, in terms of organisation, positioning, set pieces, creating chances and putting plans into action, but you always have to be careful. We're on the right path but things can always be better."

Anastasiou himself is deprived of Mendes (calf) but is eager for his side to test themselves. "Although we've lost the first two matches and PSV have a very good team, this is a chance to measure ourselves against them," the Panathinaikos coach said. "We have a plan and if we follow that we'll achieve good results. We go for the win in every match and we'll do the same here."

Despite their UEFA Europa League travails to date – and with a domestic fixture against Olympiacos FC looming at the weekend – Panathinaikos will be backed by a sizeable contingent of visiting fans. "I'm very happy 2,000 supporters are coming, despite our recent results," said midfielder Christos Donis. "A good result here would also give us a good feeling for Sunday. We have to get balance and routine in the team so things get better. We must give 100%; PSV also have a young squad and we can get a good result."