FC Atromitos vs Newcastle United Europa League match preview

Posted on August 22nd, 2012 | 13 Comments |

Atromitos v NUFC ticket.
Atromitos: A stiff test for the bairns.
Venue: Peristeri Stadium, Athens.
Date: Thursday 23rd August 2012
Kick-off: 6.00 pm
UK TV: Premier Sports (Sky channel 428 or Subcription)

So where were you on March 15th 2007?

It’s over five years since the Toon were able to compete in Europe, and on that day, with Take That heading the UK charts with a Morrisson’s Supermarket ad, we ended a roller coaster campaign (with wins over Celta Vigo, Fenerbahce and away at Palermo – Tim K’s senior debut) in the UEFA Cup with a rather dismal perfromance at Alkmaar, losing our two goal first leg advantage in the process.

So five long seasons later we find ourselves back in the European spotlight (well sort of) in a final qualifying round of the Europa League, before hopefully entering the Group Stages. Our opponents on Thursday are FC Atromitos who also begin their European campaign at this stage having finished fourth in last season’s Greek Super League and losing finalists in the Cup.

To reach that fourth place Atromitos narrowly pipped AEK Athens in a league which has traditionally been a two horse race between the two Athens heavywieghts, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos, who have won the Greek title on 59 occasions collectively. AEK (another Athens based club) has occasionally split these two but you have to go back as far as 1994 for their last success.

2011/12 Greek Super League table.

Greek Super League 2011/12
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Olympiakos 30 23 4 3 70 17 +53 73
2 Panathinaikos 30 22 3 5 54 23 +31 66
3 PAOK Salonika 30 14 8 8 45 27 +18 50
4 Atromitos 30 13 11 6 32 26 +6 50
5 AEK Athens 30 13 9 8 36 30 +6 48

The Opposition

FC Atromitos.
Atromitos: They have bandy little legs for footballers!
Formed in 1923, FC Atromitos are based in western Athens, and moved to their present ground (Peristeri Stadium) in 1953.

At the time the ground contained only central stands for spectators and the changing rooms consisted of a small room at the end of the stands (so much like Roker Park in the old days). Later, a larger stand was built with a capacity of 6,000 spectators and prior to the Athens Olympics, Atromitos installed floodlights and renovated the running track so the ground could be used as a coaching facility during the Olympic Games. Its current capacity is just over 10,000.

Since their formation Atromitos have never won the Greek league, such is the dominance of the top two clubs. However things started to improve towards the end of the 1970’s, when Atromitos began to put together a decent side and they flirted with the top tier for several years although, in between, they also managed to drop down to the Third Tier.

After years of playing in the third division, Atromitos won promotion back to the second division in May 2002 by beating Levadiakos FC at Patra stadium. Unfortunately they suffered relegation almost immediately but the team eventually returned to the top flight in 2005 after merging with a team from Halkidona. They played their only European tie in what was then the UEFA Cup in 2006. Unfortunately for them, they came up against the cup holders, Seville, in a first round match and despite narrowly losing their first home leg tie 1-2, they were overwhemed in the return match losing 1-6 on aggregate. Yet another relegation followed (last day defeat from nearby rivals Panionios sending them down) before Atromitos bounced back and won the First Division “Super League” Championship in 2009.

Although never winning a major trophy, apart from two First Division titles, it’s Atromitos’s most recent past that should sound some alarm bells at SJP HQ. In 2010-2011 they went on a run to the Greek Cup final but lost to AEK 3-0. Probably due, in some part, to their cup exploits they only avoided relegation in the last few games of that season.

However last season (2011-12) they recovered to finish fourth in the league and only narrowly lost 2-1 to Olympiakos (one of NUFC’s opponents in this pre season) after extra time in the Cup Final. Their home form showed they lost only twice although they were the lowest scorers in the top five managing only 32 goals during the 30 game league campaign. Sixteen of those were scored by one man, Konstantinos Mitroglou, a 24 year old centre forward and Greek international. Fortunately for us Mitroglou has now returned to his parent club, Olympiacos, having played a season on loan at the Peristeri.

Its difficult to know which players will be key to Atromitos’s performance on Thursday evening as there has been plenty of transfer activity at the club during this past close season. Former Liverpool goalkeeper Charles Itandje is the Greek side’s first choice in goal, and is expected to play while a host of other new signings including Brazilian midfielder Chumbinho (arrived on loan from Olympiakos), defender Konstantinos Giannoulis from Cologne, midfielder Konstantinos Bouloulis on a free transfer from Fokikos, defender Efstathios Tavlaridis on a free transfer from OFI Crete, midfielder Manolis Kallergis from Fokikos, defender Nikos Lazaridis on a free transfer from Aris are all potential starters.

Perhaps the major threats will come from the four internationals in the squad including Elini Dimoutsos, who can score from midfield and has one Greek cap. Karagounis and Ballas are both U21 internationals and, if he recovers from injury in time, Finnish forward Njazi Kuqi (younger brother of former Toon “star” Shefki) who moved from nearby rivals, Panionios, after scoring 10 goals from 22 starts.

All of these players have been brought in by new coach Dušan Bajević, who replaced the highly popular Giorgios Donis. He resigned to take up the role of Coach with PAOK Salonica. Now this could just be the key to the two ties between these clubs. While the players, who have yet to start a competitive game this season, may be largely unknown outside the Hellenic nation, Bajević is undoubtedly a legend in his own lunchtime. Without boring you with the details (see Wikipedia for more of that stuff) Bajević has vast experience in club management having won eight Greek titles with both AEK and Olympiacos and four Greek Cups or Urns (lets not go there).

As we all know, Pardew’s only brush with European football (outside the usual pre season friendlies) was the somewhat inglorious two legged affair against Palermo in the 2006/2007 UEFA Cup (the very same competition where we later met and beat West Ham’s conquerors). Despite reinstating Tevez and partnering him with Harewood for the return leg in Palermo, the Hammers went down 0-3 on the night and 0-4 on aggregate. Whereas Bajević’ has vast European experience which began when in charge at AEK. They had several decent campaigns in Europe and reached the European Cup last 16 once in 1990, the Champions League last 16 twice (in 1993 and 1995), the Cup Winners’ Cup last 16 once (1996) and the UEFA Cup last 16 once (1992). With Olympiacos he guided them to the UEFA Champions League quarter finals losing 2-3 to Juventus (1–2 in Italy and 1–1 in the Olympic Stadium).

In the summer of 2002, Bajević returned to AEK, and in the 2002-03 Champions League campaign, AEK became the first and only Greek team to collect six points out of six games in the group phase and ended up in third position. Included in those reults were two draws against the reigning European champions, Real Madrid. AEK held Real 3-3 at home and managed a creditable 2–2 (having recovered from 2-0 down) draw in the return game at the Bernabeu.

So FC Atromitos appear to be a team on the rise? Last season’s exploits were just as surprising to Greek pundits as the Toon’s 5th place was in the Premier League. Now with Bajević in charge of his fifth Greek club (having returned from a brief and unsuccesful stint in Cyprus with AC Omonia) maybe this could be their big breakthrough to the latter stages of European competition for the first time in their history? We can only hope that Pardew has learned enough about playing in a competitive European environment and that Bajević, despite all his experience in the past, has reached the point in his career where his best days are behind him ?

History

Clearly there have been no previous encounters between these two sides, due mainly to the Greek teams lack of success during their formative years.

As the Greek league does not start until next Saturday, 25th August, the only “form guide” we can gather is from the past season. Their last five matches resulted in two wins (1-0 v AEK Athens and 1-0 at PAOK), two defeats (away to AEK 2-3 and home to Panathinaikos 0-1), and a home draw against PAOK which occurred during the play offs. Teams from 2nd to 5th compete in a round robin tournament to determine which club takes the second Champions League spot.

This pre season has seen the club win five games on the trot, although mostly against lower league opponents. Their final game at the Peristeri, before taking on Newcastle, saw them beat fellow Super League team Asteras Tripolis 1-0 with Dimoutsos scoring in the 62nd minute. They also hit the woodwork three times.

FC Atromitos: Itandje, Skondras (78′ Mpallas), Lazaridis (78′ Tavlaridis), Fytanidis, Giannoulis, Iglesias (78′ Kallergis), Brito, Dimoutsos (78′ Nastos), Epstein (83′ Athanasiou), Beljic (59′ Chumbinho), Karamanos (59′ Kuqi, 72′ Garcia). Kuqi was brought on as sub in the 59th minute but was also subbed by Garcia after injuring himself.

Squads

FC Atromitos

Atromitos named a 25 man squad for this tie.

The 25 players are: Radman, Karagiolidis, Itandje, Nastos, Skondras, Fytanidis, Lazaridis, Tavlaridis, Giannoulis, Iglesias, Dimoutsos, Mpallas, Athanasiou, Economou, Makris, Kantoutsis, Kallergis, Garcia, Brito, Karamanos, Beljic, Kuqi, Karagounis, Chumbinho, Epstein.

Newcastle United

The team selection has two key elements to it. The first, obviously, is to win the match but the second is to avoid playing too many of the team that will start at Chelsea less than 48 hours later. We know that HBA is missing due to his ban while playing for Marseilles and Coloccini, Tiote, Demba Ba, Shola Ameobi, Ferguson and Vuckic will not travel.

Assuming Colo and Tiote are being rested for Chelsea we’ll probably see Perch partner either Saylor or Williamson, Anita to start and Cisse to play at least the first half with Campbell replacing him at half time if we get a decent start ?

Again with opponents of an unknown quantity, I’d stick to 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 with Cisse up front supported by Marveaux and Amalfitano. With a back four of Tav, Saylor, Perch and Raylor and pack the midfield with Anita, Jonas and Bigi.

Newcastle United (4-5-1): Harper (G), James Tavernier, Steven Taylor, James Perch, Ryan Taylor, Vurnon Anita, Jonas Gutierrez (C), Gael Bigiramana, Romain Amalfitano, Sylvain Marveaux and Papiss Cisse,

Subs from Krul, Good, Simpson, Abeid, Gosling, Obertan and Campbell

Conclusion

This is not the easy tie that some would have us believe. Atromitos are no slouches and although they have yet to play a competitive match this season, they appear to be in good shape with a full squad to choose from.

Pardew has to be positive with his team selection – He’ll have to have some pace with the front men – albeit with one eye on Saturday. I hope he’s learned that European football is a different kettle of fish from the day to day rigours of the Premiership. He’ll have told his players to try and quieten what will be a partisan and vocal crowd and they must learn to be patient and wait for their opportunities, which will come, as the onus will be on Atromitos in the home leg.

Poll

NUFCBlog Author: AndyMac AndyMac has written 13 articles on this blog.

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13 Responses

  1. Good stuff by the way AndyMac, your spell check must have gone haywire with all those Greek names – Fokikos :)

  2. Good research AndyMac! Let’s hope Pardew and his men can be as thorough and as detailed on the field. HWTL!

  3. Pardew gets a text from Mourinho and tells the media right away.. that’ll be his last I expect.

  4. maze202 says:
    August 23, 2012 at 3:16 am

    “Pardew gets a text from Mourinho and tells the media right away.. that’ll be his last I expect.”

    Pardew said: ‘It’s been something to look forward to. We are all focused on it and treating it as an adventure. It’s a new experience for some who have not been involved in Europe and it will be nice. We think we have prepared well.

    ‘We are looking forward to the different styles of play, different stadia and, hopefully, continuing on. We want to do what Spurs did a few years ago and claim a few scalps like Milan.

    ‘I had a text from Jose Mourinho on Tuesday wishing us all the best and it’s things like that which make you realise things are good. We are getting noticed, which is good. It’s nice for the team that other managers are looking at us.

    ‘It gives you as a club different credentials than just another Premier League team. You look at Everton, they were great against Manchester United on Monday — and they are not in Europe. It’s a feather in our cap.

    ‘We are proud we have done it through the league. I got into Europe with West Ham through a cup final and we probably drew the best team. This time around it doesn’t look so tough. But we have still got to win and it will be tough, especially this first leg.’

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2192146/Newcastle-ready-make-European-return.html

    Pardew’s version

    “I got into Europe with West Ham through a cup final and we probably drew the best team. This time around it doesn’t look so tough.”

    Andy’s version

    “As we all know, Pardew’s only brush with European football (outside the usual pre season friendlies) was the somewhat inglorious two legged affair against Palermo in the 2006/2007 UEFA Cup (the very same competition where we later met and beat West Ham’s conquerors). Despite reinstating Tevez and partnering him with Harewood for the return leg in Palermo, the Hammers went down 0-3 on the night and 0-4 on aggregate.” :lol:

  5. maze202 says:
    August 23, 2012 at 3:16 am

    “Pardew gets a text from Mourinho and tells the media right away.. that’ll be his last I expect.”

    Maze, I’m sure that the Special One gets alot of texts from Mourinho.

  6. Hmm! workey’s in form to-day, must have got a good nights sleep.

    Good article Andy, everything one could possibly want to know about Atromitos and more.
    Joking!

    Will the game be shown on TV or will we have to attempt to get it on line?
    As RM vs Barca is live to-night i believe.

  7. chuck says:
    August 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    “Hmm! workey’s in form to-day, must have got a good nights sleep.”

    Nope, I definately got out of bed on the wrong side again Chuck.

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