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  23/10/2012: Preview Europa League: Panathinaikos - Lazio
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Four points out of two games and Lazio are sitting at the top of Group J with no goals conceded and so far things have developed well for the Roman side. On Thursday the team travels to Athens in order to take on Panathinaikos, a side that is famous for their strong home record in all competitions – but due to the economic crisis in the country has had to give up many of their best players and at the moment sit at the bottom of the Group J table and are having a disappointing domestic season as well.

In the two group games played so far Lazio have not conceded any goal, a record that Petkovic will hope stays intact after the trip to Greece. No doubt the defensive game has worked well against Tottenham and Maribor, but with the need of some squad rotation the perfect duo of Biava – Dias is expected to be altered for this game. Also other players are expected to be rested after the tough game against Milan on Saturday evening and with yet another tricky game against Fiorentina on Sunday emerging squad rotation is being indicated.

In Panathinaikos the hopes are high that the positive trend the team has against Italian opposition will continue. They are on a three game winning streak against Serie A opposition, with a 3-2 win against Roma as the most recent achievement. In that game former Lazio player Djibril Cisse got his name on the score sheet, but just as many other influential players Cisse has left Panathinaikos since their economic struggle gained pace.

In a normal season the top of the Greek league is usually occupied by city rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos. This year however, the green side find themselves in ninth position with seven games played – having only won two games and are yet to get back to the winning ways the club is used to. The two point deduction that the team started the season with has not helped either and having to watch Olympiakos dominate the league with seven wins is surely painful for the Pana faithful.

Lazio, on the other hand, are experiencing a rebirth under coach Petkovic and so far the team has taken the Europa League more seriously this time around. In the league Lazio are sitting third, only one point behind Napoli and four points behind league leaders Juventus. Only two losses in all competitions have been recorded this season and with the positive atmosphere created the expectations are high that Lazio maintain the good run against Pana, and beyond.

Panathinaikos’ main problem this season has been scoring goals and keeping it tight at the back. The opener was lost to Maribor 3-0 and the team got away with a 1-1 draw against Tottenham on the second match day. In the last three domestic league games the same player, Christodoulopoulos, has scored the teams three goals – indicating the issue that Portuguese coach Ferreira brought up as the major problem for his side. 0-0 is a result that the Pana fans have come accustomed to so far this season.

At 19.00 on Thursday the team lock horns and for both sides the outcome can be decisive for the future of the tournament. A Lazio win would see Panathinaikos last with only one point and a travel to Rome coming up, while a home win would make the group a lot tighter and allow the Greek side to start dreaming about advancing to the knock-out stages of the tournament.

Possible line ups:

Panathinaikos: Karnezis, Pinto, Vitolo, Toche, Christodoulopoulos, Seitaridis, Zeca, Marinos, Vyntra, Triantafyllopoulos, Owusu-Abeyie.

Lazio: Bizzarri, Scaloni, Dias, Ciani, Cavanda, Ledesma, Cana, Mauri, Hernanes, Candreva, Floccari.

Author: Khashayar Kashefi
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