Panathinaikos is promising to ‘fight like mad at Inter’

Three weeks after coming home from a glorious 3-0 win at Werder Bremen, Panathinaikos will need to rise once again to a major Champions League challenge for its visit to Inter Milan tonight. The Greens will go out in search of a point at the San Siro Stadium during their first ever visit to one of the most spectacular soccer venues in the world. Panathinaikos has four points from as many games and is risking elimination from the competition if it loses tonight and Cypriot champion Anorthosis Famagusta defeats Werder Bremen at home. The Athens club is keeping its collective fingers crossed for a draw at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia, to be able to qualify with a win at home over Anorthosis in two weeks’ time. Coach Henk ten Cate insisted the team has every intention of winning the game: «We’ll go for all three points, but as for the way to attain that, I will give [Inter coach Jose] Mourinho a ring tonight to discuss it.» He has revealed little of his plans for the game, but reports suggest he intends to field a defense-minded 3-6-1 formation with three central defenders. Alongside stoppers Josu Sarriegi and Loukas Vintra, the Dutch manager will employ experienced Yiannis Goumas as a sweeper. Gilberto Silva, Alexandros Tziolis and Simao Mate Junior are likely to form the first line of defense, as Panathinaikos will need as many ball winners as it can get to avert through-balls to lethal strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adriano and Mario Balotelli. Former Inter player Giorgos Karagounis and two from among Nikos Spyropoulos, Gabriel and Dimitris Salpigidis will provide service to lone striker Vangelis Mantzios up front, unless ten Cate opts for the quicker Salpigidis to play in attack. The coach has been forced to leave injured Silva Cleyton and Bryce Moon in Athens. »We respect every opponent, but we are not afraid of anyone,» said ten Cate after admitting that Inter is the clear favorite to win the match. «The message we have for our fans is that we will fight like mad at Inter,» he added. Karagounis conceded that a draw would be fine: «It would be a good result to get as it would keep us in the competition and we would have one more game to fight to get through.» Asked if the league is the priority for the team, the Greece midfielder responded that «when you go into such big games in Europe you are obliged to play well and at a high level.» About 4,000 Panathinaikos fans will be in the stands for the 9.45 p.m. kickoff (Greek time), with 500 of them giving a noisy reception to the squad in its final training at the ground last night. In the standings, after four games, Inter has eight points, Anorthosis follows with five, Panathinaikos has four and Werder is last with three points.