Cash-strapped Malaga are in a position to fight for their lives and no wonder they desperately need to reach Champions League group stages.
Panathinaikos may be in much better financial position than their opponents, but that doesn’t mean the Greeks will not be just as motivated to win this tie.
Boosted by the heavy summer spending, los Boquerones achieved their goal and finished the La Liga campaign in 4th place, but little did they know that they would soon find themselves in huge problems.
After the owners lost interest in club, key players Santo Cazorla, Joris Mathijsen, Salomon Rondon and Apono decided to leave, while few other high-profile players expressed their desire to abandon the sinking ship.
As a result, Malaga were completely outclassed by newly promoted Celta in their opening La Liga game, but they somehow managed to record a valuable win thanks to 16-year-old Fabrice Olinga, who had been extended his Visa just few days before the game.
Los Boquerones now face a tough task against experienced Panathinaikos side, with odds of 1.80 (4/5) offered by Ladbrokes on home win offering little or no value.
With no fresh injury worries to report, boss Manuel Pellegrini is likely to stick to the side that beat Celta at the weekend.
Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Caballero – Gamez, Demichelis, Weligton, Monreal – Toulalan, Camacho – Joaquin, Isco, Portillo – Fernandez.
Panathinaikos were very fortunate to be drawn alongside Motherwell, a team that replaced Rangers, in the third qualifying round, so nobody was surprised to see the Greeks record a 5-0 aggregate win over the Scottish side.
PAO can have no complaints on the play-off draw either having been pitted against out of sorts Malaga that have stayed without several very important players this summer.
It really appears that Lady Luck has been smiling on the Greek side this summer, and with that in mind, odds of 2.63 (13/8) offered by bet365 on PAO to qualify do look tempting.
It is important to point out that Panathinaikos are now coached by Jesualdo Ferreira, a man who was sacked by Malaga not long ago, and he will now have an extra motive to do well against his former side.
The squad have seen some changes this summer, with Quincy, Fornaroli, Sissoko, Velazquez and Sow arriving to the side, and Ninis, Plessis, Cleyton and Kante leaving the club.
As far as the Malaga game is concerned, key midfielder Sebastian Leto is unavailable, as are new signings Quincy and Pape Sow.
Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Karnezis – Vyntra, Velazquez, Boumsong, Spyropoulos – Katsouranis, Vitolo – Zeca, Christodoulos, Sissoko – Toche.