SPORTS

Injury woes for vital encounter

Greek international midfielder Angelos Basinas may be missing from the Panathinaikos team for their final Champions League Group E game against PSV Eindhoven tonight. Basinas, who played a full 90 minutes in the 1-0 defeat by archrivals Olympiakos Piraeus on Saturday, has been suffering from a back strain and may not be risked if coach Zdenek Scasny feels it will jeopardize his fitness. Striker Michalis Constantinou and defender Rene Henriksen will miss the match due to injury. Panathinaikos go into the game knowing they need to do better than Arsenal to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament. Currently lying third in the group and assured of going into the last 32 of the UEFA Cup, they need to beat PSV Eindhoven, who have qualified, and hope Rosenborg Trondheim take at least a point from their game at Arsenal. Fulfilling the first part of the equation will be difficult enough, especially if Basinas, their key playmaker this season, is not fit. In spite of gaining two creditable draws against Arsenal, they have struggled for consistency and slipped to a confidence-sapping defeat in Piraeus at the weekend, beaten by a Rivaldo free kick which left them third in the league. PSV, meanwhile, have a five-point lead at the top of the Dutch league after a 4-0 win over De Graafschap on Saturday. They broke a 33-year-old Dutch record in that match by not conceding a goal for 1,110 minutes, but will be without Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (shoulder), John de Jong (knee) and Theo Lucius (illness and thigh). They also have doubts about Andre Ooijer (ankle), Young-Pyo Lee (thigh) and DaMarcus Beasley (ankle), but at least they know that whatever the outcome of the match they have made it through from the group phase for the first time in nine attempts. Having booked their place in the Champions League by winning the Premier League unbeaten, Arsenal must be wondering how they find themselves needing to beat Rosenborg Trondheim tonight to ensure they stay in the competition. Arsenal have consistently failed to punch their weight in Europe under Arsene Wenger, and this season have managed just one win and four draws from a Group E they should have strolled through. Instead, with their domestic form also wobbling, they have to beat Rosenborg to guarantee progress into the knockout stages. A draw or even a defeat for the London club could still see them stumble into the knockout stages, but fans already edgy after seeing Chelsea move five points clear in the Premier League will be expecting a more positive approach. The statistics suggest that an Arsenal victory is the only feasible result. Rosenborg have lost 14 of their last 15 away games in the competition and have not won home or away for three years. They have major injury problems, particularly at the back, and although coach Per Joar Hansen says he is unimpressed and «not scared» of the Gunners, who they held to a 1-1 draw in September, it is hard to see the Norwegians repeating the feat. Arsenal, even without suspended duo Patrick Vieira and Lauren, should have more than enough firepower to get the win they need – and which might still even be enough top the group. Francesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini will probably fill the central midfield roles, with striker Thierry Henry taking over the captaincy in the absence of Vieira. (Reuters)