Marseille will start as favorites as they visit Panathinaikos in the third-round qualifying of the UEFA Champions League. Prior to the French giants’ arrival at Leoforos Alexandras Stadium in Athens, their Greek hosts have previously defeated Dnipro-1 of Ukraine 5-3 on aggregate.
Preview (Panathinaikos vs Marseille)
Ivan Jovanovic’s team served as the “visitors” in the first leg of the match in Slovakia. They built a comfortable 3-1 lead before welcoming Dnipro to their base in Athens. They needed to win to avoid a disastrous three-goal defeat. Artem Dovbyk and Eduard Sarapiy of Dnipro did make a remarkable comeback look possible. Andraz Sporar’s second goal of the game tied the score for Panathinaikos at 2-2.
The Shamrock are only four games away from making their first group stage since the 2010–11 season. Panathinaikos’ had a less-than-stellar performance in the second leg last Tuesday. However, the third-round curse has plagued them recently. In fact, Panathinaikos’ most recent two qualifying attempts in 2014–15 and 2015–16 both failed in the third round, and the 1971 champions advanced as far as the playoff round in 2012–13 before losing to Malaga. Les Olympiens finished fourth in their 2022–23 season, for the third consecutive year, behind Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, and Eintracht Frankfurt. Less said about Marseille’s most recent trip into the Champions League group stages.
Les Olympiens, the 1993 Champions League champions, might have a second chance in the upcoming season. Igor Tudor guided them to a third-place finish in the Ligue 1 standings in 2022–23. Despite the fact that their hold on second place was lost to Lens due to dismal end-of-season results. As the season came to a close, rumors of a potential title challenge gradually faded away as Marseille lost four of their final five games and missed out on automatic group-stage qualification. The French powerhouses Marseille have only ever had to play in Champions League qualifying twice. In the 2003–04 and 2008–09 seasons, they advanced to the tournament proper. However, Wednesday’s encounter will be their first-ever competitive meeting with Panathinaikos.
Panathinaikos’ new Greek Super League season does not begin until the third weekend of August, so Jovanovic’s team can concentrate completely on their European travels and shouldn’t have any fitness issues going into the first leg. This summer, Marseille also spent lavishly on new players, signing Renan Lodi, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Ismaila Sarr, Iliman Ndiaye, Ruben Blanco, and, of course, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. After the departures of Dimitri Payet, Alexis Sanchez, Luis Suarez, and Arkadiusz Milik, as well as Aubameyang’s former Arsenal teammate Sead Kolasinac’s departure for Atalanta BC, the former Chelsea and Arsenal striker strengthens the Olympiens assault. In a revamped attacking lineup against Leverkusen, Aubameyang, Sarr, and Ndiaye all made their debuts.
Since Marcelino’s new strikers may need some time to acclimate to one another, Marseille underwent a big offensive transformation this summer, giving Panathinaikos optimism for a successful outcome at home. The Greek juggernauts are likely to penetrate the Olympiens’ defense at least once, but Marseille still has a wealth of players with a strong sense of the continent, so the guests should return to their starting point with a first-leg advantage.
Panathinaikos 1 – 2 Marseille
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