Panathinaikos camp awaits next round draw
Having traveled to Spain for its final Group C match against Real Mallorca with top spot and a place in the Champions League’s next phase already in the bag, Panathinaikos’s 1-0 defeat on Tuesday has already been overshadowed by tomorrow’s draw for the competition’s next round. On their return flight home, the club’s players and officials were far more interested in who their prospective opponents would be than in the loss to Real Mallorca. Panathinaikos had secured its place with a game to spare following last week’s 2-0 win against Scalke 04 at home. The Greek side won four of its six games and lost the other two to secure Group C’s top spot and its berth. Considering the competition’s final group standings in the first phase and the way these affect tomorrow’s draw, the Panathinaikos camp already knows it will not be facing Liverpool, Nantes, or Arsenal in the second round. The two top-placed teams from each of the first round’s eight groups have advanced to the next phase, where they will be divided into four groups of four. Panathinaikos coach Yiannis Kyrastas avoided choosing preferences for the outcome of tomorrow’s draw. In the previous draw, I remember seeing how the other groups were shaping up and hoping that we would be drawn in a group that included Nantes and Galatasaray. I felt unlucky when we were drawn against Arsenal, Schalke and Real Mallorca, but in reality, everything turned out differently, Kyrastas said. Initially, I had said that qualification would be tightly contested. Who could have imagined that we’d finish the job so easily and that a team with nine points would miss out? he added. Despite accumulating nine points following Tuesday night’s victory against Panathinaikos, Real Mallorca could do no better than third place in Group C. Arsenal, also with nine points, finished second on the strength of a better record between the two sides in their games. Kyrastas, who declared Schalke a stronger side than Arsenal and said the Germans were unfortunate to miss qualifying for the Champions League’s next phase, had little to say about his team’s defeat in Spain.