Luck of the Greek: Barça – Panathinaikos

CL Preview: Barça – Panathinaikos, Tuesday 2:45pm EST

My reaction to the Champions League draw a few weeks ago was a lot of cackling. Had I been looking in through the window I would have been struck–other than by the ground 8 floors below, momentarily–with a sense of “I saw this movie when they called it Wizard of Oz…and that green wench dies at the end.” Also, spoiler alert, sorry. Basically, I was happy with our draw and consider it ridiculously easy compared to other draws, but it’s certainly never going to be a cakewalk. If Hércules can beat us at the Camp Nou, then certainly Panathinaikos can too.

A quick run down of who they are, what they want, and how they’re going to try and get it: They’re the reigning Greek double champions, having come in 6 points ahead of runners up Olympiacos in the league and defeated Aris Thessaloniki in the Greek Cup final. They’re captained by Giorgos Karagounis, an able, if aging, attacking midfielder best known for a goal against Portugal in 2004 that kickstarted the Greek run towards the European Championship. The tendency to think of Greek club teams as very similar to the Greek national team–that is, extremely Greek–is usually a bad idea and Panathinaikos is no exception: of their 25-man roster, 11 of them are foreign (Barça has almost the exact same percentage).

Of those foreign players, you’ll recognize at least a few: Jean-Alain Boumsong, Sidney Govou, Sebastián Leto, Luis García, Gilberto Silva, and Djibril Cissé. That last one, Cissé, has been scorching the Greek league since he joined a year ago, scoring 24 goals in 29 appearances (1 in 1 this season). In call competitions last year he went 29 goals in 45 appearances, so he’s obviously enjoying life in front of the net everywhere once again. So he’s dangerous.

And then, of course, there are the Greeks. An aging Kostas Katsouranis is still Kostas Katsouranis, the aforementioned Karagounis can still deliver a tremendous ball, and Alexandros Tzorvas will kick you in the teeth if you get near his goal box. Players I don’t know anything about but are Sotiris Ninis, Antonis Petropoulos, Nikos Spyropoulos–though I feel like I’ve heard the name Spyropoulos simply because he’s made enough appearances. Or it could be that I’m pronouncing it “Syrupolis” in my head and thinking about how that’s probably actually some awesome Canadian city where everyone has cavities.

What Panathinaikos wants is both simple and complicated. On the surface, they want to win. That, of course, is a given. Below the surface, at least according to my obviously reliable sources,* they want to play a high defensive line and get all up in your face ‘n shit. And that, I think, will provide the necessary gaps required by the Guardiola system. Panathinaikos may try to rely on their shamrocks to get through the match, but I’d suggest something else instead, like either beating us outright (something I don’t think is possible for them to do) or play the way Hércules did and look to catch us on the break while keeping your lines tight. Supposedly (according to the ever-reliable Spanish dailies–I forget exactly which one) Esteban Vigo, Hércules’ manager, used footage from Inter’s win against us in the San Siro to hype up his players and get them ready for the game; it doesn’t sound that far-fetched, so perhaps it’s actually true. Either way, I expect Panathinaikos to sit back more than usual and try to play us defensively.

It’s just that it won’t work. Having rested Busi and Puyol for the entire match against Hércules, Pep should be sending out The Terrifying One alongside The Falling One and that should greatly enhance Barça’s attacking prowess. Yup, I said that. A defender and a defensive midfielder will help our attack. I’m so crazy.

So it’s going to be Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.

Oh yes, it’s on now.

Official Prediction: 4-0. Messi (2), Villa, Busi. I know it’s crazy to be this optimistic after a loss, but we’re going to have the fire in our eyes now and it’s going to shred the Trifylli like dry corn in a souped up combine. I know this because Guardiola is talking about having confidence in the team and Iniesta is saying they are still hungry and everyone thinks we’re the crappiest team in history because 1 loss is so telling. Because the team hasn’t molested Sevilla 4-0 or anything. And they haven’t had a crap game against Racing and still won 3-0.

*Yeah, you heard that right. I’ve got sources. What of it? It’s not like it’s just Luke’s previous post and an IM conversation with him. Sources, people.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. Kxevin
    September 13, 2010

    And guess who’s running the LiveBlog? That’s right, kids! Baby Kxevin’s in the house and on vacation, which means I am at your service(s). Rock.

    • September 13, 2010

      aaawwww snaps. It’s going to be a TAG-TEAM match this time around as, um, Queen Elizabeth is going to Quick Poll you kids to death while Baby Kxevin is teething and making a ruckus.

    • blitzen
      September 13, 2010

      Tempted to pull a sickie so I can be there….but probably won’t. Damn responsibility. 🙁

    September 13, 2010

    nice preview!the most dangerous players are leto(very good dribller and fast left winger)sisse and ninis(if he play).as i said yesterday if we play well it s gonna be an easy win.

    • September 13, 2010

      Oh crap, I forgot Leto. I had this whole thing on him too. That’s what taking breaks while writing will do to you. Thanks for pointing him out.

  3. Luke
    September 13, 2010

    That’s right friends, I am source material. Other Barça sites might claim to bring you the info, but here at BFB we care so much, we have writers who are used as source material.

    “BFB, we care more than others”

  4. jnelson
    September 13, 2010

    So. Ready. It will be an interesting challenge, one I’m hoping won’t require breaking a bus.

  5. September 13, 2010

    can’t wait! got my new David Villa #7 jeresey in the mail today and I must say it is quite the bees-knees. I don’t think we can afford a single let up tomorrow. We are the team with the target on our back, and every team is looking for their 1 minute of glory by at least scoring on us. I hope we are focused and just score early and force them to open up.

  6. September 13, 2010

    i am not as optimistic. i expect a bus parking game which involves a lot of fouls. 2-0. 1 goal before half time and 1 late goal.

  7. Eduard
    September 13, 2010

    I want to see our “fills da Catalunya” show us the saturday was just a fluke

  8. barca96
    September 13, 2010

    I like Jim’s line-up from the previous post although like Jnice, I wont be surprised to see Keita in the line-up for some reason.

  9. vicsoc8
    September 13, 2010

    I see a lineup of:

    Alves Puyol Pique Maxwell
    Xavi Busquets Keita
    Iniesta Messi Villa

    in this game.

  10. September 13, 2010

    i still love Abidal at leftback much more.

    Maxwell does the job ok, but most of the time he is unspectacular.
    I’d love to try Busi and Masch with the former playing a more advanced role.

    The wonderful crosses provided by Adriano got me thinking if… if… if…. Ibra were still here, it would be great….However, Adriano didn’t link up with Messi. No one-two, no interaction. I still prefer Alves-Messi which is more dominating on the right. But let’s give Adriano more time.

    • ooga aga
      September 13, 2010

      also, ibra didnt like heading the ball. always ninja kicks.

    • September 14, 2010

      i think the kind of crosses alves made vs adriano’s are very different though. adriano’s are more headable imo because of the height and the speed. i’d said it before that alves’ crosses are too spinny and thus they drop too quickly, and more like a shot than a cross sometimes. the quality of adriano’s crosses are higher in my standard. the presence of a tall CF will force teams to play adriano more seriously because every cross to the center is a much bigger threat.

      still,i think u are right too… but it doesn’t matter anyway, we won’t see no ninja kick anymore.

  11. inNYC
    September 13, 2010

    Never underestimate the Greeks. I played with a whole family of Greek girls in high school/club soccer. Name of Notidis. Stephanie Notidis delivered a fine slide tackle, and on one memorable occasion occasion a fine punch to the teeth of an opposing forward. I was very happy she was on my team.

  12. theMaginator
    September 14, 2010

    Great post my queen.

    Finally got over Saturdays loss. It took a lot of hot showers to wash off the dirtiness.

    Now lets demolish Panantiakos.

  13. Vj
    September 14, 2010

    I can’t believe the CL is upon us once again! I get to watch this live so Woohoo!! Let’s crush Pana!!

    PS: If we lose against Pana, I’ll call myself Queen Elizabeth II..

    • Kari
      September 14, 2010

      *Makes mental check*

      Right. Got it.

  14. Diego S.
    September 14, 2010

    I predict the same line-up as Viscoc8

    Alves Puyol Pique Maxwell
    Xavi Busquets Keita
    Iniesta Messi Villa

    I don’t think It’ll be 4-0 .. They’ll defense and foul a lot .. we could score a goal from a corner or something .. I think it could be 2-0

  15. Helge
    September 14, 2010

    No journey this time through the great history of Athens?
    Well, it might have been a little bit too much 🙂

    Anyway, I expect a tough and physical match from Panathinaikos, 2-1 win for us with goals from Pedro and Piqué!

    • Kari
      September 14, 2010

      Well, in the Queen’s defense, it’s a home game, not an away game.

  16. Eklavya
    September 14, 2010

    Alves Pique Puyol Abidal
    Xavi Mascherano Busi
    Messi Villa Iniesta

    You heard it 1st here.

    • Helge
      September 14, 2010

      According to sport, your line-up is pretty close to the actual one. The only question mark is behind Mascherano, who could be replaced by Keita.
      I still prefer Iniesta in midfield and Pedro up front, though.

  17. Kari
    September 14, 2010

    Well, I got a wicked infection-thing courtesy of the weather change that decided to grace the Ottawa valley. If they don’t want to make my mood worse, Barca better get their arses in gear and crush some Greeks.

    I think Pep might go with the same lineup that started the Hercules game, but with some changes. I don’t remember it off the top of my head, but I remember Xavi, Busi, and Dani didn’t start that game (Puyol wasn’t even in the squad), so I’d take out SMasch, Adriano, Maxwell and put those dudes in. You’d get a XI of:

    Alves – Pique – Puyol (maybe Milito) – Abidal
    Xavi – Busi – Iniesta
    Messi – Bojan – Villa

    Okay, so I lied. That’s a completely different lineup. I honestly don’t know what’s going on in Pep’s mind, so meh. I’m down with whoever as long as we dish out a canister of whoop-as* on ’em.

    I get to watch this thang on TV, but I might come on the ever-so-distracting LiveBlog. Thanks to Kxevin in advance for running it!

  18. Kari
    September 14, 2010

    For Canadiens (and I don’t mean Montreal fans…), the Barca-Pana game is on TSN 2. The repeat of this game (on the same channel) is at 9:00pm EST.

    • blitzen
      September 14, 2010

      Damn! I’m so low-rent I don’t even have basic cable. Clearly I need a massive life upgrade.

  19. Kxevin
    September 14, 2010

    Looks like Her Highness will be running this LiveBlog. My presumption was that she would be doing the usual shrieking and swilling at a nearly watering hole, but apparently she wished to be Regal and shit today. 😀

    I will certainly be popping in via mobile device, however, while watching the Fox Sports (Espanol) feed.

    This one has me a bit worried, frankly. I’m glad we’re at home.

    September 14, 2010

    puyol abidal
    alves adriano
    xavi keita


  21. poipoi
    September 14, 2010

    I think pep will sit pedro!… it is always better to have p! in the bench than keita, just in case things go wrong. Besides things a less likely to go wrong if keita busi and xaviniesta are all on the pitch.


    Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal,
    Busi, Xavi, Iniesta,
    Messi, Villa, Iniesta.

    won’t be able to watch it 🙁 🙁 🙁 joder!!!!

    • Tajh
      September 14, 2010

      Hmmmm did we clone Iniesta?? but I do believe Pep might go with a linesup like

      Keita did play a full 90 over the weekend so he might be on the bench…and Pep seems to like/have alot confidence in Mash.

      • poipoi
        September 14, 2010

        lol… sorry. I just cut-pasted queen elisabeth’s line-up and didn’t erase Iniesta.

        I tried to mean like yours but with keita instead of masch, yours is cooler but you know, keita always plays. swap masch and put busi up… I think that with the tactical greatness and skill littleness of keita he can be a great DM, so busi will have to learn to play OM a bit more this year, but that is only what I would like 😀

    September 14, 2010

    it seems they will park the bus.their formation will be 4-5-1 with 3 D.M.they miss the R.B and L.B.marinos and vuntra will play in that i believe we will clean the game from the first half.

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