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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Panathinaikos v Spurs - 04.10.12

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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
95 55  23  17  196-75 
(Winners 1972, 1984
 Finalists 1974)
P    W   D   L   F - A
148 84  32  32  307-141 
The official logo of Panathinaikos F.C.     

Acropolis now

Spurs are off to Greece for the second time in a year, and to Athens, in the shadow of The Acropolis for only the second time in competitive football. Our only other European tie in Athens 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.

This time last year we travelled to Salonika, and a very young side did well to come away from the PAOK game ( PAOK 0 Spurs 0 - 15th September, 2011) with a point. Carlo Cudicini was largely responsible for keeping the Greek team at bay, whilst their hostile crowd tried to urge them on to victory.

Whilst, no doubt several first choice players will either stay at home, or occupy the bench, I do expect a stronger side than last year to face Panathinaikos in the Olympic Stadium, which can hold up to 68,000, but has held a maximum of 27,719 so far this season. Panathinaikos's biggest crowds last season were just in excess of 30,000. I suspect that more than the 250 Spurs fans that made the trip to Salonika will be in attendance on Thursday night, but perhaps only double that figure. Few flights seemed to be available, and they are also expensive.

Panathinaikos's biggest game is of course against Olympiakos, and there were major riots in March after their last meeting, won 3-0 by Olympiakos. The entire Panathinaikos board resigned, and after some turmoil, the club is currently owned by its own supporters.

Historically, Panathinaikos is one of the biggest and most successful of Greek clubs, having won 20 championship titles, and had 17 Cup wins. They reached the European Cup Final in 1971, losing to Jan Vertonghen's old club, Ajax, at Wembley. They have also been semi-finalists in the Blue Riband European event twice, and regularly compete in Europe. Last year they lost in their first Champions League play-off game, then also in the Europa League. No doubt those failures helped them to concentrate on the league programme, and the Greeks qualified for this year's Champions League after finishing runners-up in the Greek "Superleague". They were runners-up seven points behind their hated rivals, Olympiakos. It would probably be a good idea not to mention these opponents in Athens when confronted by a Panathinaikos fan!

Other things not to mention will include the state of the Euro in Greece; the economy in general; oh, and The Elgin Marbles!

This season has started badly for Panathnaikos, who are a lowly 12th of 16 teams after just 5 games, of which they have won just one. That, erm, other team are top again. In Europe, the Greeks beat Motherwell in the Champions League third qualifying round, but then lost to Malaga 2-0 on aggregate in the final play-off round. Group J of the Europa League did not start well for them, with a 3-0 defeat to Maribor on the night we drew 0-0 with Lazio.

There are one or two familiar names in the Panathinaikos squad. Quincy Owusu-Abeyie once played for Arsenal, but rarely for their first team, and he left them 6 years ago. He spent a short spell on loan at Portsmouth and came on as substitute in our home league game with Pomepy on 27th March, 2010.

Centre-back Jean-Alain Boumsong is in his third season here, but played for Newcastle between 2005 and 2007. Boumsong played against us several times for Newcastle, but also in 2004, in a pre-season friendly at his previous club, Rangers. He spent time at Juventus and Lyon before his move to Greece.

I am feeling quite confident that 19 year old defender Kostanstinos Triantafyllopoulos will not feature in our game, but less so about Greek International midfielder Lazaros Christodoulopoulos. If those supporters who own the club can get the shirt lettering business going, there is a mint to be made here!

Our team will presumaby resemble more that which played at Carlisle, than the one that ran out at Old Trafford. Despite that, my good friends at the Hellenic Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' club feel confident that we can beat their home team, who are said to be in dire straits on and off the pitch.

Who am I to argue with such well-informed and sensible folk who follow the mighty Spurs? I'll settle for a 2-0 win, and hope not to be using a headline such as "Whoops Acropolis" upon my return. Incidentally, I shall be flying out early tomorrow (Wednesday) and shall not return until Friday, so the website will not be updated until later in the week.

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