SPORTS

PAO hoping to stop Barcelona

Panathinaikos faces the ultimate challenge of hosting reigning world soccer champion Barcelona for the Champions League tonight and is aiming at least to avoid defeat. The Greens, who have never lost to Barcelona at home and have chalked up one win and one draw so far, are at the bottom of their group and can only realistically hope to snatch the third spot, which leads to the Europa League knockout stage. Preparing for his first game on the Panathinaikos bench, Portuguese manager Jesualdo Ferreira announced he would field the same lineup as the one that beat Iraklis 4-2 for the Super League on Saturday, with only one change. «Panathinaikos is a big club. Against Barcelona, we have to field a side that is serious, knows what’s doing and rises to expectations. I want to tell everyone that the players should not fear Barcelona,» said Ferreira, who will be missing injured Sotiris Ninis and Sebastian Leto, as well as a suspended Giorgos Karagounis. Sidney Govou is not on the squad for disciplinary reasons. Barcelona will be trying to keep its focus on tonight’s game – not an easy task given the prospect of the all-important clash against Real Madrid next Monday for the Spanish league. «The Champions League is the Champions League – a very difficult competition. We have to give it all to win. We have a game tomorrow [i.e. tonight] and another in six days. That means we can focus on this game and then relax and look toward the following one,» said Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola. The Athens Olympic Stadium is set to be at full capacity tonight for the 9.45 p.m. kickoff (live on NET). Separately, Panathinaikos is close to signing Manchester United’s Brazil midfielder Anderson on loan, according to reports in the British and Greek press. The 22-year-old has fallen out of favor at United but is ideal for Ferreira, who wants Anderson on a six-month loan until the end of the season. Rival Olympiakos will today complete its match at Ergotelis on Crete which was abandoned 11 days ago due to a waterlogged pitch.