SPORTS

A win is needed tonight

Panathinaikos, Greece’s only survivor in European club-level soccer competition this season, will strive for victory, by any margin, against French club Auxerre in a third-round, second-leg UEFA Cup match in Athens tonight, for a place among the last 16. The encounter, following a scoreless draw by the two clubs in France last week, is one of 16 to be played around Europe tonight. Commenting on tonight’s match [Mega Channel, 9.30 p.m.] at a news conference yesterday, Panathinaikos coach Itzhak Shum warned that his players would need to show great care against a formidable opponent for a fourth-round berth. «Auxerre is a great side and needs to be confronted seriously,» said Shum on his side’s opponent, currently fifth in France’s first division, nine points behind front runner AS Monaco. «I believe that a difficult game awaits us tomorrow [tonight] against one of France’s toughest sides.» Panathinaikos, the country’s most reliable side in European competition over recent years, entered the UEFA Cup’s third round after capturing third place in the Champions League’s first round of group play. The Athenian club did so with a courageous 3-1 win over Rangers in Glasgow, a result which sank the Scottish team to last place in its Champions League group and no consolation UEFA Cup berth. Panathinaikos, which failed to win a single game before its supporters in the Champions League, will be chasing its first European home win for the season against Auxerre. «We haven’t won a single home match in European competition this year and I think that the time has come to do it,» Shum said. Panathinaikos’s Israeli coach warned that tonight’s opponent is renowned for being a stronger side when playing away. He also said that a meeting between the two sides in a pre-season friendly last summer could prove helpful. «The team played against Auxerre recently, in the summer, and knows how it must play. We also have good players and will need to show this,» Shum noted. «On a good day, Panathinaikos can defeat any European team at home.» He declined to offer any details about his team’s lineup and said yesterday’s final practice session would determine whether several players recovering from injury would be selected. Shum said that midfielders Lucien Sanmartean and Jan Michaelsen still appeared unfit. Striker Emmanuel Olisadebe, just back from a knee injury after being sidelined for three months, will be included in the team’s squad, Shum said, but the coach expressed reservations about the player’s fitness after a lengthy absence. Other UEFA Cup matches tonight include struggling Italian giant Inter Milan, which hosts French club Sochaux following a 2-2 draw in the first leg. One of the favorites, Roma, and two-time winner Parma, trail 1-0 against Turkish opposition. Roma hosts Gaziantepspor, while Parma visits Genclerbirligi in Ankara. Spanish clubs are in a more comfortable position. Barcelona has a 1-0 lead against Danish side Brondby going into tonight’s match at the Camp Nou. Mallorca has a 3-0 edge in Spain against Spartak Moscow, while Valencia has a 3-2 lead when it travels to Istanbul to play Besiktas. Villarreal hosts another Turkish club, 2000 winner Galatasaray, after a 2-2 first leg draw. Liverpool, winner in 2001, has a 2-0 buffer at Bulgaria’s Levski Sofia; Newcastle hosts Norway’s Valerenga after a 1-1 first leg draw. (Kathimerini, AP)