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Spurs Odyssey Preview - PAOK v Spurs - 15.09.11

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Spurs record in Europe:-
The official crest of Tottenham Hotspur
U.E.F.A Champions League
 P   W   D   L   F - A
12   5   3   4  25 -19
European Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
8   4   1   3  21 - 13
(Semi-Finalists 1962)
European Cup Winners Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
33  20  5   8  65 - 34
(Winners 1963)
UEFA Cup/Europa League
P   W   D   L   F - A
87 52  21  15  187-71 
(Winners 1972, 1984
 Finalists 1974)
P    W   D   L   F - A
140 81  30  29  296-134 
The official logo of PAOK
"The Black Hell" awaits our young team!

Spurs travel to Greece for only the second time in their history of European competition. I am assured by a correspondent in Greece that we will receive a "warm and interesting" welcome. The atmosphere in the PAOK stadium is apparently known as "The Black Hell". I'm thinking shades of Besiktas in October 2006, when the Turkish stadium was literally jumping. The vast majority of the 28,000 fans in the Toumba Stadium on Thursday will perhaps be of a similar nature, not that I anticipate anything other than an exciting and intimidating atmpsohere, without physical threat.

Ideally Spurs could do with an experienced team for this fixture, but the news suggests that many of the first team squad are not travelling. A whole team is staying at home for injury and selection reasons - Friedel; Walker, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Sandro, Parker; Van Der Vaart, Modric, Bale; Adebayor - so several youngsters will be getting exposure to this challenging environment. A starting line-up of Cudicini/Gomes; Corluka, Kaboul, Bassong, Townsend; Falque, Carroll, Livermore, Giovani; Kane; Pavlyuchenko is suggested, with some experience on the bench to include perhaps Tom Huddlestone, Jermain Defoe and Niko Kranjcar. Our Carling Cup team at Stoke on Tuesday could be similar.

Our other European tie against a Greek team was back in October/November 1972, when we were the UEFA Cup holders, and had beaten Lyn Oslo 12-3 on aggrregate in the first round. Olypiakos Piraeus were more resilient and were beaten 4-1 on aggregate, with Spurs winning the home leg 4-0, and conceding just the one goal in Greece. Jimmy Pearce scored two of our four goals, with Martin Chivers and Ralph Coates adding to the score. Chivers may well travel with those taking the hospitality package to this game, and will have some tips for the team too, I imagine. It's a sobering thought that three of our squad for that Olympiakos tie are no longer with us. I refer to Cyril Knowles, Ralph Coates, and Jimmy Neighbour. As a matter of interest, Olympiakos are in Arsenal's group in the Champions League this year.

The team name PAOK is derived from the full title of the Pan-Thessalonian Athletic Club of Constantinopolitans, based in Thessalonika (Salonika), the second largest City in Greece. PAOK qualified for the Europa League after finishing fourth in last season's Greek Superleague, and they currently sit in fifth place, although they've only played two league games. PAOK lost away to Ergotelis 2-1 last Saturday, and won their other league game 1-0 at home.

PAOK have already played four matches in the Europa League, where they beat the Norwegian team Valerenga 5-0 on aggregate in the 3rd quaifying round, and then the Ukrainian side Karpaty 3-1 on aggregate in the final qualifyer. Their squad is predominantly Greek, but their main goal-scoer with three goals in their 6 games to date is the Portuguese winger Adelino Vieirinha, now in his fourth season with PAOK, having been signed from Porto, after a spell on loan. 22 year old Stefanos Athanasiadis, has also scored two early goals, and made his senior International debut in the summer for Greece against Ecuador. The PAOK squad has an average age of 26.89 years, with predominantly young forwards, but some seasoned midfielders and defenders. The squad includes two Brazilians, and 34 year old Uruguayan international midfielder Pablo Garcia. Add to these a couple of Croatians, one of whom is named Etto, a Chilean, Italian and Columbian, and you do have quite an International mix!

The Greek fans like their firecrackers, and any London-based fans trying to get to the White Hart Lane match later in the programme could offer a challenge to security! I hope to come back on Friday in one piece with a tale of victory!

Due to my travel arrangements, the Spurs Odyssey post-match survey and report will be delayed till Friday evening.

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