PAOK looking for big European turnaround in Thessaloniki
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - PLAYOFFS 2ND LEG
PAOK will be looking to overturn a 1:0 deficit against Slovan Bratislava in Thessaloniki on Thursday night in order to advance to the UEFA Europa League group stages. AGONAsport previews the critical second leg matchup.
PAOK will be going into the do or die battle on Thursday night following a dramatic 1:0 loss in the final minutes of the first leg encounter in Slovakia. However, Abel Ferreira’s men were back to winning ways over the weekend with the Greek Super League commencing. The reigning Greek champions opened their title defence with a solid 2:1 victory over Panetolikos at the Toumba stadium on Sunday night. Two goals from striker Karol Swiderski and midfielder Josip Misic were enough to see the Thessaloniki club claim maximum points from their domestic league opener.
The Dikefalos tou Vora’s form in the UEFA Europa League has been worrying for all, with the team losing six of their past seven matches in the competition over the last two seasons so far. PAOK will need to secure a two-goal victory in order to avoid being bundled out of the Europa League playoff round for the second time in the last three seasons.
Slovan Bratislava have experienced an incredible run of form following the removal of their previous manager Martin Sevela, who was sacked following the club’s shock exit from the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round against Sutjeska.
Since the appointment of Jan Kozak as senior coach, Slovan Bratislava have managed to win 10 consecutive matches across all competitions, until the weekend, where they drew 1:1 at home to Zilina. Slovan Bratislava remain on top of their domestic league, with a record of five wins and one draw, and an impressive goal difference of 18 scored and just two conceded. After 11 games unbeaten, the team will be full of confidence in getting a result in Thessaloniki and advancing to the UEFA Europa League group stages.
TEAM NEWS: PAOK
Since the arrival of new manager Abel Ferreira, Karol Swiderski has struggled to break into the starting eleven. However, the Polish striker started his first game on the weekend and scored. There is pressure on Ferreira to start Swiderski ahead of Dimitris Pelkas alongside Chuba Akpom upfront.
Possible line-up: Paschalakis, Giannoulis, Crespo, Varela, Matos, El Kaddouri, Esiti, Biseswar, Jaba, Swiderski, Akpom.
TEAM NEWS: SLOVAN BRATISLAVA
Defensive midfielder Marin Ljubicic will miss the encounter due to suspension, after receiving a total of three yellow cards in the Europa League qualification campaign. There remains doubt over winger Aleksandar Cavric as he returns from injury. However, he could be used off the bench for the Slovakian team.
Possible line-up: Greif, De Marco, Bozhikov, Abena, Medvedev, de Kamps, Nono, Moha, Holman, da Silva, Sporar.
REFEREE: ANDREAS EKBERG (SWE)
UEFA have appointed Swedish referee Andreas Ekberg to the second leg fixture in Thessaloniki. The 34-year old has been a listed FIFA referee since 2013. Last season, Ekberg was in charge of the fixture between Greek side Asteras Tripolis in the second round qualifying round against Hibernian. In the 2017/18 Europa League group stages, Ekberg refereed AEK’s clash against AC Milan which ended in a goalless draw.
Assistant referees: Mehmet Culum (SWE), Stefan Hallberg (SWE)
Fourth official: Kristoffer Karlsson (SWE)