Panathinaikos coach Henk Ten Cate leads his revitalised team against Anorthosis Famagusta for a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage.
Two away victories for Panathinaikos – 3-0 at Werder Bremen and 1-0 against Internazionale Milano a fortnight ago – have made the Greek side favourites to progress along with the Nerazzurri. Indeed, the Greek side will secure a last-16 place for the first time since 2001-02 if they avoid defeat tonight.
And Ten Cate, who turns 54 on Tuesday, is hoping to mark the occasion in style.
“There is great optimism among the players and we have a good feeling that we can qualify,” said the Dutchman. “This can be the best birthday present of my life. Who in the world can say they had 70,000 people at their birthday? We only need one point, so the onus is on Anorthosis to attack. Every game is different and this match is more like a cup final considering what is at stake.
“You only have to look at our results since the match in Cyprus – our record speaks for itself,” said the coach. “We’ve taken seven points and we’re full of confidence.
“Anorthosis have our respect. They have shown they are a strong unit, they have done extremely well for their first time in the Champions League, but we are not afraid of them or the pressure of the game.”
Temuri Ketsbaia, whose side can still finish in any position, responded: “At the start of the campaign no one believed that we would achieve what we have done. Now we are playing for qualification from the group stage. We have come to Athens to do that, and although we know it’s not easy we believe in ourselves.
“We’ve had some injury problems but we’ll give everything we’ve got,” added the coach.
“We know their strengths but also their weaknesses. They have pace and aggression up front and a very solid midfield, so we know it will be difficult. They are favourites but we will wait for our chance and try to hit them where it hurts.”