Panathinaikos vs Athletic Club preview

August 16, 2017
By: Nemanja Lazarevic

Greek giants Panathinaikos have been handed a tough draw for the Europa League play-offs as they are up against very good Athletic Club side.

Los Leones eased off to a 4-1 aggregate win over Dinamo Bucuresti, and it remains to be seen whether PAO will prove a sterner opposition.

Panathinaikos have spent quite some time in the shade of bitter rivals Olympiakos, and they missed a chance to secure Champions League berth having finished second in the CL/EL play-offs.

The squad have since undergone some changes as Wakaso, Samba and Berg all left, while in came Chavez, Luciano and Johansson among others.

Following some promising results in pre-season, PAO did well to win both games against Qabala in the third qualifying round, but they will have bigger fish to fry this midweek.

Panathinaikos struggled against top sides at home in the past, losing to Dinamo Moscow, PSV, Ajax and Celta Vigo and the last top team they beat was AS Roma back in 2010.

The hosts will have to make do without summer recruit Mattias Johansson, while Ousmane Coulibaly and Paschalis Staikos are rated doubtful.

Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Vlachodimos – Coulibaly, Moledo, Kolovetsios, Hult – Zeca, Kourbelis – Chatzigiovannis, Altman, Lod – Molins.

Athletic Bilbao have been regular in Europa League of late and they even finished as runners up in 2012, losing to Atletico Madrid in the final.

As that is usually the case, los Leones started the new season with a virtually unchanged squad, albeit with new head coach Jose Angel Ziganda after Ernesto Valverde had taken over the reigns at Barcelona.

The Europa League fixtures against Dinamo Bucuresti have been the only two competitive fixtures so far and Athletic fared pretty well in those.

After the 1-1 draw in the first leg in Romania, los Leones recorded a 3-0 triumph in the return match, with Raul Garcia (x2) and Aritz Aduriz getting on the scoresheet.

Athletic have now been made 23/20 favourites to defeat Panathinaikos on the road, which does seem an attractive proposition.

Benat, Mikel Balenziaga and Ager Aketxe have resumed training, while Inaki Williams could be preferred to Aritz Aduriz up front.

Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Iago – De Marcos, Boveda, Laporte, Balenziaga – San Jose, Benat – Susaeta, Raul Garcia, Muniain – Williams.

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