Tottenham take on Panathinaikos at White Hart Lane for the second qualifying position in Group J of the Europa League. When the two teams met in Greece in early October, that seemed an unlikely scenario. Then, Panathinaikos had lost heavily to Maribor and for the first sixty minutes in Athens, Spurs had totally controlled the game. The Greek team were in disarray, disorganised and low in morale. A late equaliser denied Spurs the three points they wanted but did little to help Panathinakos’ cause. A home draw against Lazio followed for the Greek side but then came another three goal defeat in Rome.
At this point qualification appeared to be between three clubs with Panathinaikos out of the running. Last month Spurs drew in Rome with Lazio – the point being sufficient to ensure the Italian club’s qualification to the knock-out stages. Spurs retained second place in the group but still required a point to progress. Panathinaikos unexpectedly defeated Maribor to eliminate the Slovenians and move in to third place with the knowledge that a win in London in their final game would see them progress at Tottenham’s expense.
During the course of the Group stages, Panathinaikos have managed an incredible turnaround – from appearing to be the whipping boys of the group to potential qualifiers. Panathinaikos showed in Greece that they could be durable – they overcame the advantages Tottenham had in possession and chances created as well as falling behind to Michael Dawson‘s goal late in the first half to claw their way back into the game and punish Spurs with an equaliser, thirteen minutes from time.
For all the problems Panathinaikos have had this season, which included starting their League season with a deduction of two points due to rioting in last season’s derby with Olympiacos, they have only lost twice in the Greek Super League. They have five wins and six draws in their 13 games, showing that they are difficult to beat. They are currently in 6th position in the Super League. Since mid-September, they have suffered only one defeat in 11 League and Cup games, winning three of their last four matches. The only defeat was a fortnight ago at Platanias who are in mid-table in the Greek Super League.
P 13 W 5 D 6 L 2 For 14 Ag 10 Pts 19* Pos 6th [*2 point deduction]
In Europe (2012-13)
In their European matches this season Panathinaikos have been poor travellers. They won 2 – 0 at Motherwell in the opening match in the Champions League qualifying round but have lost their other three away games without scoring. Malaga defeated them 2 – 0 as they were eliminated from the Champions League and they have lost both of the Europa League away games by 3 – 0.
At White Hart Lane
Panathinaikos need to defeat Tottenham for qualification while a draw would be sufficient to allow Spurs to progress. Tottenham will want to win the game and can probably expect a rearguard action from the Greek team, hoping to snatch a goal on the counter-attack. Tottenham will be mindful that they lost 2 – 1 to PAOK Salonika last season after conceding two early goals and then struggled to break down a packed defence, even though the visitors had been reduced to ten men late in the first half.
As Tottenham have always insisted they want to take the Europa league seriously this season, they are likely to field a strong team. Will Brad Friedel take over in goal from Hugo Lloris and will Emmanuel Adebayor start following his three match ban? Who will replace Gareth Bale? Will one on the younger players get a chance on the left side of midfield? Questions to be answered but Spurs should have the answers to overcome Panathinaikos.
Greek Teams at Tottenham
Spurs’ first meeting with a Greek team was in the 1972-73 UEFA Cup when they played Olympiacos in the 2nd Round. Spurs won 4 – 0 which basically ensured their progress in the competition. The Tottenham goals were scored by Jimmy Pearce (2), Martin Chivers and Ralph Coates. Pearce scored the first after twelve minutes when Chivers laid the ball off low from Ray Evans’ cross. Chivers scored the second after 25 minutes when he headed in Coates’ cross. Four minutes into the second half, Coates made it three having been set up by Chivers. Pearce added the final goal with a powerful shot. A minute after the fourth goal, Spurs were awarded a penalty when Cyril Knowles was brought down. Martin Peters took the kick but the goalkeeper moved as he saved it. The referee ordered it to be retaken. The goalkeeper again saved Peters’ shot but he had again moved early but this time the referee awarded a corner. Spurs lost by a single goal in Greece but progresses 4 – 1 on aggregate.
Olympiacos visited White Hart Lane for a pre-season friendly which Spurs won 3 – 0 through goals from Roman Pavlyuchenko, Verdran Corluka and Jermain Defoe.
Defeat to PAOK Salonika effectively ended Tottenham’s interest in last season’s Europa League. PAOK were two ahead after 13 minutes but Luka Modric pulled one back with a penalty six minutes before the interval. A PAOK defender was sent off but even against ten men Spurs were unable to find an equaliser against the well organised Greek defence.
Tottenham only need a draw but won’t want to make the same mistakes as last year. They can take heart, even without Gareth Bale, from Panathinaikos’s poor away form in this season’s European matches and will hope for an impressive win to ensure progress to the next stage of the competition.