What Celtic fans need to know about Champions League opponents AEK Athens

0
Have your say

Celtic must overcome Greek outfit AEK Athens if they want to keep their bid for the Champions League group stages on track.

Here’s a closer look at the Parkhead club’s third qualifying round opponents:

Niklas Hult of AEK Athens holds off PAOK forward Dimitris Limnios during a Greek Superleague match. Picture: Getty Images

Niklas Hult of AEK Athens holds off PAOK forward Dimitris Limnios during a Greek Superleague match. Picture: Getty Images

What does AEK stand for, anyway?

AEK stands for Athlitiki Enosis Konstantinoupoleos - or, in English, Athletic Union of Constantinople.

The club was formed in 1924 by Greek refugees who had been forced to flee from Istanbul (known as Constantinopolis by Greeks) to Athens in the wake of the Greco-Turkish War.

Greek gods

AEK are the third most successful club in Greece behind Olympiacos and Panathinaikos with 31 national honours.

The Yellow-Blacks have 12 league crowns, 15 Greek Cups, one League Cup and three Super Cup titles to their name.

Trailblazers

The capital club may trail their two local rivals in terms of trophy wins but they punch above their weight when it comes to performances in Europe.

They became the first Greek club to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League back in 1994 and remain the only side from the country to have made it to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup.

Their best display in the continent’s main competition came back in 1969 when they made it as far as the European Cup’s last eight before falling to Czechoslovakia’s Spartak Trnava.

Tartan Terrors

The Athenians have history on their side as they prepare to square up to Celtic having triumphed in their four previous European ties with Scottish opposition.

They dumped Walter Smith’s big-spending Rangers side - complete with new signings Brian Laudrup and Basile Boli - out of the Champions League back in 1994 while they repeated the trick against Hearts in 2006 to clinch a group-stage slot. Hibs were knocked out of the UEFA cup back in 2001 after a thrilling 4-3 aggregate win was sealed after extra-time at Easter Road.

Dundee United were the Greek side’s most recent Scottish scalp after losing in a 2010 Europa League tie.

On the rise

AEK are back flourishing in Greece’s top flight but it was only five years ago that they were plunged down to the nation’s third tier after being enveloped by financial problems.

However, they made a swift recovery by winning back-to-back promotions to regain their Super League slot.

Title joy - and controversy

A first league title in 24 years was claimed last term as AEK triumphed with a six-point margin.

However, the title race was marred by incredible scenes during a clash between AEK and nearest challengers PAOK in March when the Thessaloniki club’s president Ivan Savvidis invaded the pitch while carrying a gun and tried to confront the referee after his side had a late goal ruled out for offside.

The championship was suspended for two weeks before PAOK were docked three points.

A home from home

AEK are currently based at the 70,000-seater Olympic Stadium - venue for the 2004 games.

It was also the stage for AC Milan’s 4-0 Champions League drubbing of Barcelona in 1994 as well as the Rossoneri’s 2007 triumph over Liverpool.

The club has recently started work on rebuilding its former Nikos Goumas Stadium base which it was forced to quit when it was severely damaged by a devastating earthquake back in 1999.

Big name

The most recognisable member of the AEK squad is former Barcelona defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy.

He joined the Catalan kings from Shakhtar Donetsk for a whopping €25 million back in 2009 but lasted just a year at the Nou Camp before returning to Ukraine.