AEK keen on extending run against Austria Wien
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - GROUP D (MATCHDAY 2)
|AEK||3:05 PM (EST)||Austria Wien|
AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris previews AEK’s clash with Austria Wien on Matchday 2 in the UEFA Europa League.
Fresh off a thrilling win against Olympiacos in the Super League on Sunday, AEK are hoping for another memorable night as European group stage football returns to OAKA for the first time since 2011.
AEK will look to build on their 2-1 defeat of Rijeka on Matchday 1, while Austria Wien are keen for a restart after a 5-1 loss to AC Milan at home last time out.
Lazaros Christodoulopoulos was the protagonist as AEK pulled of an improbable comeback from 2-0 down to stun Olympiacos at OAKA on Sunday. Meanwhile, Austria Wien could only manage a scoreless draw in a heated fixture against fellow Austrian Bundesliga title favorites Red Bull Salzburg.
Fears of injury to Michalis Bakakis and Rodrigo Gallo have been quelled as both are expected to feature against the Austrians. Andre Simoes, Helder Lopes, and Viktor Klonaridis will miss out, joining the likes of Kostas Lambropoulos, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, and Giorgos Giakoumakis on AEK’s growing injured list.
The visitors will be without a handful of would-be starters due to various injuries. 20-year-old Patrick Pentz is expected to start in goal as Robert Almer and Osman Hadžikić are both inured – the latter having featured on Matchday 1 against AC Milan.
Meanwhile, experienced defender Heiko Westermann is also set to miss out; the German center-back joining Alexander Grünwald and Lucas Venuto as players unavailable for selection on Thursday night.
AEK: Anestis, Galo, Cosic, Vranjes, Bakakis, Johansson, Kone, Christodoulopoulos, Mantalos, Livaja, Araujo
Austria Wien: Pentz, Martschinko, Serbest, Mohammed, Klein, Holzhauser, Felipe Pires, Jin-Hyun Lee, Alhassan, Prokop, Friesenbichler
9/24/17 AEK-Olympiacos 3-2 (Greek Super League)
9/20/17 AEK-Lamia 2-0 (Greek Cup)
9/17/17 Lamia-AEK 0-1(Greek Super League)
9/14/17 Rijeka-AEK 1-2 (UEFA Europa League)
9/10/17 AEK-Larissa 4-0 (Greek Super League)
9/24/17 Austria Wien -Red Bull Salzburg 0-0 (Austrian Bundesliga)
9/20/17 Vocklamarkt-Austria Wien 0-3 (Austrian Cup)
9/17/17 Austria Wien-St Polten 5-1 (Austrian Bundesliga)
9/14/17 Austria Wien-AC Milan 1-5 (UEFA Europa League)
9/10/17 Austria Wien-Wolfsberg 2-2 (Austrian Bundesliga)
Thursday will mark the first meeting between the two clubs, but both sides have history with opposition from their opponent’s homeland.
AEK have encountered Austrian opposition on eight occasions, most recently in the group stage of the Europa League in 2011/2012 when the Athenians were paired with SK Sturm Graz. AEK enjoyed their only win of that campaign against Sturm Graz in Athens; however, AEK’s overall record against Austrian clubs is a little more balanced for a record of W3 D1 L4 (W2 L2 at home).
Meanwhile, Austria Wien have not faced Greek opposition since a Europa League play-off tie against Aris – the Austrian side were bounced from the tournament after a 2-1 aggregate loss. Sporting a W1 D1 L3 overall against Greek clubs, Austria have lost on both of their previous visits to Greece.
AEK will certainly be on a high after their derby win against Olympiacos at the weekend, but manager Manolo Jimenez will surely keep his squad focused on the goal of reaching the knockout rounds of the Europa League.
The Spanish tactician has transformed AEK to a serious title contender in 2017 domestically as the Athenian sit alone at the summit in Greece after five rounds of domestic action. The former Sevilla bench-boss will certainly look to deliver on a continental stage, too.
With a few notable players unavailable for selection, Jimenez could likely give Panagiotis Kone his first start for what could form a Greek attacking trio behind Sergio Araujo.
At the other touchline, Thorsten Fink is quite familiar with AEK having flirted with the AEK job before AEK ultimately appointed Temuri Ketsbaia.
Fink has steered Austria Wien to back-to-back Europa League group stage appearances for the first time in the club’s history – a feat that was also never achieved in the Austrian capital during the now-renamed UEFA Cup.
Much like their hosts on Thursday night, Austria Wien are targeting a return to knockout round football in European competition for the first time since a run to the quarter-finals for the 2004/2005 UEFA Cup.
Certainly Austria Wien demonstrated their defensive frailties against AC Milan on Matchday 1, a reality check for the Austrian side before their trip to Athens. With a rather inexperienced ‘keeper between the sticks, the back-line for Austria Wien will need to be at the top of their game to slow down AEK’s red-hot offense which has scored 14 goals in their last five games at OAKA.