Motherwell v Panathinaikos: Home front vital for Well
MOTHERWELL manager Stuart McCall refreshingly eschews the usual blether about keeping it tight at the back, not losing a home goal, and still being in the tie come the return when musing on his game plan for the visit of Panathinaikos on Tuesday.
Logically, he points out, if his team are to make it through to the play-off round of the Champions League, that outcome is extremely unlikely to be achieved by winning in Athens. It stands to reason for him, then, what his gameplan must be this week.
“We won’t be naive, but we will have a go,” says McCall, who adds that he will be “disappointed” if Fir Park doesn’t host a 10,000-plus crowd for such a great and historic occasion for the club. “We have been unable to watch them pre-season because they’ve only played behind-closed-doors games and we can’t be sure how they will set up. But we will go for a positive result. Looking back at their last season’s formation, they played a certain way, or at least did in the first half before changing it [following a season-ending injury to top scorer Sebastian Leto].
“It’s also how they see us: do they think they can come over, get an early goal and kill the tie off? Or do they sit in and see what we’ve got to offer and have a look at us first? If they’re a big side, physically, then that could also dictate things. Bobby Jenks, our chief scout, has told me they got 107 yellow cards last season. We’re going to have to try to be aware before we go on the park of all the different scenarios.
“But we are going into the dark a little bit. I’m one of those people who likes to be clued up and see the opposition before we play. But it’s obviously not been the case this time. However, it is also about how we play. I’ve been involved in a lot of European games, seen a lot of European games.
“Yes, you want to still be in the tie going away. Realistically, though, we know if we’re going to get through, if we’re going to win it, we’ll need to get a good positive result at home.
“People will say we have to be careful, that we don’t go gung-ho early and lose a couple of goals and are completely out of the tie. But this is our chance to get a positive result.If we’re going to get a positive result then it’s going to be on Tuesday night. I don’t want to set up ultra-defensively. Fir Park is a tight little ground and we can get about them. Last season we were at our best going forward and we have creative players who can cause a threat.”
McCall is hopeful that Panathinaikos won’t know that much about his side either but the fact that Gianis Samaras, father of Celtic’s Georgios Samaras, heads up the Greek club’s youth academy, could leave the Motherwell manager out of luck on that front.
In the present-day Panathinaikos, Motherwell will find a team somewhat down on their luck, despite their second-place finish in their league last year. The Athens club may appear kindred spirits to the Fir Park side in that both clubs are effectively owned by their supporters, but they have gone down that route – more than 50 per cent of their shares are now in the hands of the Panathenian Alliance – against a backdrop of the club flirting with bankruptcy last year.
They were further destabilised by rioting at a derby match with Olympiakos last March that led to the club being docked five points and the entire board resigning. As the Greek economy has collapsed, so Panathinaikos have been forced to downsize. Djibril Cisse was sold for £5.5 million a year ago, and since then there have been a steady stream of departures. They may still boast players such Jean-Alain Boumsong, pictured, and former Liverpool forward Leto, but have stated their intention to rely more on academy players.
Motherwell will not be facing the most successful club in Greek history, who reached the last 16 of the Champions League as recently as 2009. They are playing a Panathinaikos who last year were beaten by Odense in the Champions League qualifiers – losing 4-3 at home in a decisive second leg – and who were then subsequently eliminated by Maccabi Tel Aviv in play-offs for the Europa League.
McCall is right to have a go.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east