SPORTS

Crucial match for PAO in Russia

Panathinaikos has a tough task ahead tonight as it visits Russian soccer champion Rubin Kazan for its fourth match in the group stage of the Champions League. «This is such a strong side; it is unique in that it is the only team that Barcelona, the world’s top side, has not beaten,» stated Panathinaikos coach Nikos Nioplias at last night’s official press conference in Kazan. Two weeks after the goalless draw between the two sides in Athens, Panathinaikos finds itself at the bottom of the group with just one point, and a draw might not be enough for the Greeks tonight. «We are expecting a good result; the best would be victory, and the next would be a draw,» said Nioplias. Boosted by its 2-1 win over Olympiakos for the league, the Greens still have several selection problems due to injuries to wingers Sebastian Leto and Sotiris Ninis. Holding midfielder Simao Mate Junior has traveled to Russia despite the recent death of his brother. Rubin will also be aiming at victory, as striker Sergei Kornilenko’s statement indicates: «We are no worse than Panathinaikos and we can beat them, especially with our fans behind us.» The game kicks off at the earlier-than-usual time of 7.30 p.m. and will be live on Mega. Panathinaikos was fortunate enough to avoid a Super League opponent in the round of 16 of the Greek Cup, the draw for which took place yesterday. The holder of the trophy will face second-division side Trikala, who beat last-year’s finalist Aris in the previous round. The most important match of this fifth round, to be decided in knock-out games, is that between Larissa and AEK. Olympiakos will have to negotiate Ilioupoli first tomorrow for the fourth round if it is to face Asteras at Tripolis. The other ties are PAOK vs PAS Yiannina, Olympiakos Volou vs Panserraikos, Iraklis vs Kerkyra, Ethnikos Asteras vs Diagoras and Atromitos vs Kavala. They will be played on December 22 or January 5.