PAOK looking to make a statement in Slovakia
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - PLAYOFFS 1ST LEG
PAOK travel to Slovakia to face Slovan Bratislava in the 2019/2020 UEFA Europa League qualification playoffs. AGONAsport’s Athan Stylos previews the first leg encounter.
Following their positive start to their new campaign, Slovan approach this game with real confidence. The Slovakians have begun the season with five wins from five matches in the Slovak Super Liga.
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the reigning Slovakian champions. After the shock UEFA Champions League elimination to Montenegrin side Sutjeska in the first qualifying round on penalties, their manager Martin Sevela was sacked immediately. The appointment of Jan Kozak Jr. as his replacement has got off to the perfect start with Slovan Bratislava winning nine consecutive matches in a row in both their domestic league and Europa League qualifiers.
Slovan Bratislava defeated eating Feronikeli in the second qualifying round (4:1) and Dundalk in the phase of qualification (4:1).
PAOK enter the Europa League following the disappointment of being bundled out of the Champions League by Dutch giants Ajax 5:4 on aggregate in heartbreaking circumstances.
Nevertheless, PAOK must now turn their attention now to Slovan Bratislava as the club aims to participate in the Europa League group stages for the second consecutive season. The team will be faced with a difficult schedule with the 2019/2020 Super League season commencing this weekend.
TEAM NEWS: SLOVAN BRATISLAVA
Slovan Bratislava’s first choice goalkeeper Dominik Greif was rested for the team’s league victory over Sered on the weekend, however he should be available to play in the encounter against the Greek champions.
Since being appointed manager, Jan Kozak has set his team up to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Andraz Sporar the main attacking threat leading the line. Sporar has been a prolific striker since joining the club, scoring 5 goals from 8 games across all competitions this season.
Possible line-up: Greif, De Marco, Bozhikov, Abena, Medvedev, de Kamps, Ljubicic, Moha, Holman, da Silva, Sporar.
TEAM NEWS: PAOK
Swedish midfielder Pontus Wernbloom has been added to the 25-man squad after recovering from a long-term injury.
PAOK boss Abel Ferreira mentioned in his pre-game press-conference that he will not make a lot of changes to the team which fell short against Ajax last week in the Champions League.
Since being appointed manager of PAOK, Ferreira has set up his side to play with a 4-4-2 formation, with Anderson Esiti and Omar El Kaddouri playing as the holding midfielders, whilst both Diego Biseswar and Leo Jaba playing as wingers. Chuba Akpom and Dimitris Pelkas are expected to lead the line upfront for the Greeks.
Possible line-up: Paschalakis, Giannoulis, Crespo, Varela, Matos, Biseswar, El Kaddouri, Esiti, Pelkas, Jaba, Akpom.
REFEREE: IVAN BEBEK (CRO)
UEFA have appointed Croatian Ivan Bebek to referee the playoff encounter in Slovakia. In the past, the 42-year-old has referee matches in the Champions League, notably a knockout fixture between Paris Saint Germain and Bayer Leverkusen in the 2013/2014 season. Bebek has been a FIFA listed referee since 2003.
Assistant referees: Goran Pataki (CRO), Bojan Zobenica (CRO)
Fourth official: Igor Pajac (CRO)