SPORTS

Panathinaikos needs win to sustain hope

Panathinaikos will need victory against Rosenborg in Norway tonight if the Athens club is to maintain its hopes of a place in the Champions League’s next round of knockout competition. After holding Arsenal to a 1-1 draw in its previous encounter earlier this month, Panathinaikos, on five points from four games, lies third in Group E, one point behind the London club. PSV Eindhoven has broken away at the top with nine points, and Rosenborg is last with one point. Due to the freezing weather in the Scandinavian country, the Panathinaikos squad arrived in Norway on Monday, a day ahead of schedule, to better adjust to the conditions. «It will be a tough game. We’re going to need to play as we did against Arsenal, and I don’t mean the style of play but performance,» said Panathinaikos coach Zdenek Scasny. «Rosenborg is a good team and played very well in Athens in the first game,» he added. Panathinaikos won that game 2-1 in the competition’s first round after a two-goal lead was narrowed with a last-minute consolation goal by the Norwegians. Home advantage has proven a factor in previous meetings between the two sides in European club-level competition. Prior to this season, the two teams clashed in the 1996/97 Champions League’s qualifying round. That time, Rosenborg’s margin of victory at home helped the side get through. In his pre-match comments, Scasny, Panathinaikos’s coach, said it was of vital importance to maintain a clean sheet while also noting that his team would be looking to strike. «I’ve watched the team’s home games, including the match against Arsenal, in which Rosenborg played well. They’re a disciplined side. The players know both how to play and what it is they want on the pitch,» said Scasny. «We’re not going to make major changes compared to the way we played against Arsenal. We’ve got to keep a clean sheet but must also be dangerous from the beginning to create scoring opportunities. We’re not going to lock ourselves into defense,» he added. Commenting on the Greek club’s chances of advancing to the Champions League’s knockout phase, Panathinaikos’s Danish defender Rene Henriksen said all was still possible in Group E while adding that matters were in the club’s hands. In the group’s other game tonight, Arsenal will be looking to end its string of draws in the Champions League and push PSV Eindhoven from top spot with a big win in The Netherlands. The London club won their first encounter 1-0 earlier this season. A draw would guarantee the Dutch a place in the competition’s next round, reserved for 16 teams, the top two from eight groups. History is on Arsenal’s side. Besides its 1-0 win earlier this season, the Gunners treated the Dutch to 4-0 thrashing in Eindhoven in 2002-2003. But the pressure is all on Arsenal, which had its 49-match unbeaten run ended by Manchester United on October 24. Since then, it’s won just three and drawn seven matches in all competitions. «Our quality is there, our spirit and desire is still there,» Arsenal Captain Patrick Vieira said. «Now we need to show it on the pitch. We go through this kind of period every year at this time. I am confident about tonight and about next Sunday [against Liverpool in the Premier League].» PSV has never survived the first round of the Champions League in seven attempts. (Kathimerini, AP)