Panathinaikos absent from European group stages for third time in six seasons
The chant Panathinaikos fans once proudly sang “Hellas, Europe, Panathinaikos” is absent from the stands of the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium as the team that once proudly represented Greece in European football, has been a let down in recent seasons. Continuous failures to qualify for the group stages of UEFA’s competitions have seen Panathinaikos’ place in UEFA’s rankings plunge from 18th to 141st.
Panathinaikos’ inability to qualify for the Europa League group stages has become more of a routine rather than a surprise in recent years after the Prasini bowed out to Athletic Bilbao in this year’s Europa League qualifying. This season’s exit was more or less expected as the Spanish side were the clear favorites to advance and did so prevailing 4-2 on aggregate over two matches.
Panathinaikos’ failure to advance to the Europa League group stages marks their third exit from Europe’s competitions before the end of August in the last six years. This not only has taken a toll on the Trifylli’s prestige as a club, but has also seen the Prasini plunge over 100 places in UEFA’s rankings (once 18th and now 141st) over the years. This will consequently lead to more difficult draws/opponents in future European campaigns to come.
Since the 2012/13 season when Giannis Alafouzos took over, Panathinaikos have qualified for the Europa League group stages on three occasions (out of six), but in each campaign, the Prasini put together some disappointing performances.
In the 2012/13, Panathinaikos automatically qualified for the Europa League group stages where they met Tottenham, Lazio, and Maribor. The Greens failed to make it to the next round as they finished third behind Lazio and Tottenham, despite holding both sides to a draw at the OAKA stadium.
In the 2013/14 season, the Prasini’s licensing application was denied by the UEFA Licensing Committee and as a result, were not granted permission to compete in European football that season.
The following season, the Trifylli returned to the Europa League group stages after qualifying at the expense of Midtjylland. The Prasini were handed a rather favorable draw in the group stages with Dinamo Moscow, PSV Eindhoven, and Estoril, however, they finished last in the group, without a win, and just 2 points from six games.
The first real shock came during the 2015/16 season when the Prasini were eliminated in qualifying by the unknown Gabala from Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani club proved worthy opponents as they eliminated the Trifylli on away goals after two draws (0-0 in Azerbaijan, 2-2 in Greece).
After the shock from the 2015/16 season, Panathinaikos made no mistakes in qualifying and progressed through two rounds dispatching AIK Stockholm and Brondby. Despite qualifying for the Europa League group stages, their presence was beyond disappointing as the Prasini recorded five losses and one draw in a group that included Ajax, Celta Vigo, and Standard Liege. Panathinaikos’ only point came in an away draw against Standard Liege.
This season, the Prasini managed to gain revenge over Gabala in the Europa League third qualifying round (won 3-1 on aggregate), but Athletic Bilbao proved to be too tough of an opponent in the playoff qualifying round. The Spaniards prevailed 4-2 on aggregate, leaving Panathinaikos without European football (post August) for yet another season.
Panathinaikos’ luck in the draw to pull Athletic Bilbao could be the story to come in the future as Panathinaikos’ UEFA Rank continues to drop for yet another season. Tough times await the once prestigious Greek club in European Football...