- The Greek Teams’ Opponents in the 3rd Qualifying Round -
The stage is set for the 3rd qualifying round of the UEFA Champions and Europa Leagues and AGONAsport.com breaks down the opponents of all 5 Greek teams. Greece continues the UEFA season with all 5 representatives, 2 in the Champions League (Olympiacos, PAOK), and 3 in the Europa League (AEK, Panathinaikos, PAS Giannina). PAS Giannina knocked out Odd BK on Thursday, while the other 4 Greek teams will make their debut next week for this year’s UEFA season.
OLYMPIACOS - HAPOEL BE'ER SHEVA (CHAMPIONS LEAGUE)
- General Match Info: Olympiacos will face Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the UEFA Champions League (Champions Route). The first leg will be played in Greece on Wednesday, July 27 (2:30 PM, EST) with the second leg scheduled for Wednesday, August 3 (2:00 PM, EST) in Israel.
- Who is Hapoel Be'er Sheva: Hapoel Be’er Sheva is based out of Be’er Sheva, Israel and plays their football at the Yaakov Turner Toto Stadium (16,126 capacity). They have won the Israeli Premier League on 3 occasions with their most recent title coming this past season. They accumulated 83 points, two ahead of second placed Maccabi Tel-Aviv, to earn their first Israeli Championship in 40 years. This is Hapoel Be’er Sheva’s 1st appearance in the UEFA Champions League. The past two seasons they were eliminated in the 2nd qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League. They are coached by 37-year old Barak Bakhar.
- On the Pitch: Their stand-out player is Miguel Victor, who played last season at PAOK and has experience from his stay in Portugal (Benfica) and England (Leicester City). They also have Ovidiu Hoban, who played with Romania at Euro 2016. Olympiacos are the clear favorites to advance but cannot underestimate their opponents. Hapoel Be’er Sheva defeated Sheriff Tiraspol from Moldova in the 2nd Qualifying round after earning a 3-2 victory at home and drawing 0-0 in Moldova for the second leg.
- Prior History: Olympiacos has never met Hapoel Be’er Sheva in UEFA’s competitions, but have bad memories from Israeli sides in Europe. In the 2002-2003 Champions League Group Stage, they were defeated 3-0 by Maccabi Haifa in Cyprus and drew 3-3 in Greece to lose their ticket to the UEFA Cup (currently known as the Europa League). More recently in 2011, Maccabi Tel-Aviv eliminated Olympiacos in Europa League qualifying after defeating the Greek side 1-0 in Israel to advance on away goals (first leg ended 2-1 to Olympiacos). It was a shocking elimination for the Erythrolefki, who were left out of Europe in early August!
PAOK - AJAX (CHAMPIONS LEAGUE)
- General Match Info: PAOK will face Dutch side Ajax in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the UEFA Champions League (League Route). The first leg will be played in Holland on Tuesday, July 26 (2:45 PM, EST) with the second leg scheduled for Tuesday, August 2 (2:30 PM, EST) in Thessaloniki.
- Who is Ajax: Ajax is based out of Amsterdam, Netherlands and plays their football at the Amsterdam Arena (53,502 capacity). They are the most successful club in Dutch football having won the Dutch Eredivisie on 33 occasions and the KNVB Dutch Cup 18 times, having the most titles in each competition than any other club in the Netherlands. This past season Ajax finished 2nd in the Dutch Eredivisie, dramatically losing the tile in the final minute of the final league match. They are 4-time winners of the UEFA Champions League and have won the UEFA Cup (1992) and Cup Winner’s Cup (1987). Last season, they were eliminated in Champions League Qualifying by Rapid Vienna and finished 3rd in the Europa League Group Stage. Ajax is coached by 52-year old Peter Bosz.
- On the Pitch: Ajax began a “new era” in 2016, changing managers after Frank de Boer’s 6-year stay at the club came to an end. While both Viktor Fischer and Mike van der Hoorn were transferred out this summer, Ajax completed two strong signings with Davinson Sánchez (defender from Atlético Nacional) and Mateo Cassierra (striker from Deportivo Cali). Without a doubt, Ajax’s star is Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik. Other notable players include Joël Veltman and Davy Klaassen as Ajax is also known for their young talent including Kenny Tete (19 years old), Jaïro Riedewald (19 years old), and Riechedly Bazoer (20 years old). Although Ajax has put on poor showings in their friendly matches during the preseason, they have lots of speed and are great on the attack. The big question that remains at Ajax is how the team will react and perform with a new manager in charge. Ajax will be the slight favorites to advance with PAOK expected to put up a good fight, especially in the second leg at home.
- Prior History: PAOK and Ajax met in 2011 in the same round of UEFA Champions League Qualifying. The Greek side was eliminated on away goals after registering two draws in the two legs. The match in Holland finished 1-1 (current PAOK coach, Vladan Ivic, scored the only goal for the Thessalonikiotes) with the return leg ending 3-3 in Greece.
AEK - SAINT ETIENNE (EUROPA LEAGUE)
- General Match Info: AEK will face French side Saint Etienne in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the UEFA Europa League. The first leg will be played in France on Thursday, July 28 (3:00 PM, EST) with the second leg scheduled for Thursday, August 4 (2:00 PM, EST) in Athens.
- Who is Saint Etienne: Saint Etienne is based out of St Etienne, France and plays their football at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard (42,000 capacity). They have won the French Ligue 1 on 10 occasions and have won the Coupe de France 6 times. This past season St. Etienne finished 6th in the Ligue 1, coming close to a spot in the Champions League. The French club have lots of experience in UEFA’s competitions and were eliminated by Basel in the Round of 32 in last season’s Europa League (finished 2nd in the Group Stage behind Lazio). Saint Etienne is coached by 49-year old Christophe Galtier.
- On the Pitch: Saint Etienne’s is known for their speed, strength, and pace on the wings. They play in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Yohan Mollo, Loïc Perrin, Neal Maupay, and goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier considered the stars of the team. Last season, they were strong on the defensive end but had many issues on the attack. Their Stade Geoffroy-Guichard is a difficult place for traveling teams as the club has great supporters. Saint Etienne are the favorites to advance as AEK has not played in Europe since the 2011 season. However, their manager Temur Ketsbaia is known for leading his side to surprising results in European qualification matches.
- Prior History: The two sides have never met in Europe’s competitions. Saint Etienne eliminated Olympiacos in the Round of 32 in the 2009 UEFA Cup after defeating the Greek side 1-3 in Greece and 2-1 in France.
PANATHINAIKOS - AIK (EUROPA LEAGUE)
- General Match Info: Panathinaikos will face Swedish side AIK in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the UEFA Europa League. The first leg will be played in Athens on Thursday July 28 (2:30 PM, EST) with the second leg scheduled for Thursday, August 4 (1:00 PM, EST) in Sweden.
- Who is AIK: AIK is based out of Solna, Sweden and plays their football at the Friends Arena (50,000 capacity). They have won the Swedish Allsvenskan on 11 occasions and have won the Swedish Soccer Cup 8 times. This past season AIK finished 3rd in the Swedish Allsvenskan and are currently 5th in this season’s League, 8 points behind first placed Malmo (mid-way through the season). They have qualified for the Champions League and Europa League Group Stage once in 2000 and 2013, respectively. Last season they were eliminated in the 3rd Qualifying round by Greek side, Atromitos, after losing both legs home and away. AIK is coached by 45-year old Rikard Norling.
- On the Pitch: AIK’s roster is mostly composed of Scandinavian player. Their goalkeeper, Kenny Stamatopoulos, is a Greek-Canadian. Their star player is Dickson Etuhu who has played with many clubs in England including Manchester City and Fulham. AIK defeated FC Europa from Gibraltar 1-0 in both legs in the 2nd Qualifying Round. Panathinaikos are the clear favorites to advance as elimination by AIK will be catastrophic and embarrassing for the club.
- Prior History: AIK and Panathinaikos have never met in UEFA’ competition. In 1999, AIK knocked out AEK in Champions League qualifying to progress to the group stage after winning 1-0 at home and drawing 0-0 away. Last season, they were eliminated in Europa League Qualifying against Atromitos, who defeated the Swedish side 3-1 away and 1-0 in Greece for the return leg.
PAS GIANNINA - AZ ALKMAAR (EUROPA LEAGUE)
- General Match Info: PAS Giannina will face Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the UEFA Europa League. The first leg will be played in Holland on Thursday July 28 (2:45 PM, EST) with the second leg scheduled for Thursday, August 4 (TBA) in Athens (PAS Giannina will play at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium, home to Panathinaikos).
- Who is AZ Alkmaar: AZ Alkmaar is based out of Alkmaar, Netherlands and plays their football at the AFAS Stadion (17,023 capacity). They have won the Dutch Eredivisie on 2 occasions (their most recent in 2009) and have won the KNVB Cup 4 times. This past season AZ Alkmaar finished 4th in the Dutch Eredivisie. They have played in UEFA’s competition for many seasons and last year they finished 4th in the Europa League Group stage (behind Bilbao, Augsburg, and Partizan). AZ Alkmaar is coached by 49-year old John van den Brom.
- On the Pitch: AZ Alkmaar is not considered a powerhouse or a team to be “scared” of, however they do gain the respect of their opponents. Their quality lacks that of Ajax or PSV, but they consistently finish high in the Dutch League standings. They recently sold their star striker Vincent Janssen to Tottenham on a €20 million deal. He was replaced by Wout Weghorst who had a great season with Heracles while their backline is led by Ron Vlaar. The “inexperienced” Epirotes are the clear outsiders against AZ Alkmaar, who has played many times in UEFA’s competitions. PAS Giannina will hope for the best and will have confidence after surpassing Odd BK in the second qualifying round.
- Prior History: PAS Giannina has never met AZ Alkmaar in UEFA’s Competitions. AZ Alkmaar recently played PAOK in the 2013 Europa League Group Stage (1-1 in Holland and 2-2 in Greece) and one year later, barely squeezed by Atromitos in Europa League Qualifying. AZ defeated Atromitos 1-3 in Greece and advanced on away goals after Atromitos came away with a 0-2 victory in Holland for the second leg.
third qualifying round schedule
- 26-July, Tues, Leg 1 (2:30 PM): Ajax - PAOK
- 27-July, Wed, Leg 1 (2:45 PM): Olympiacos - Hapoel Be'er Sheva
- 28-July, Thurs, Leg 1 (2:00 PM): Panathinaikos - AIK
- 28-July, Thurs, Leg 1 (2:45 PM): AZ Alkmaar - PAS Giannina
- 28-July, Thurs, Leg 1 (3:00 PM): St. Etienne - AEK
- 02-Aug, Tues, Leg 2 (2:30 PM): PAOK- Ajax
- 03-Aug, Wed, Leg 2 (2:00 PM): Hapoel Be'er Sheva - Olympiacos
- 04-Aug, Thurs, Leg 2 (1:00 PM): AIK - Panathinaikos
- 04-Aug, Thurs, Leg 2 (2:00 PM): AEK - St. Etienne
- 04-Aug, Thurs, Leg 2 (TBA): PAS Giannina - AZ Alkmaar