Greece & Turkey collide in the Europa League as Panathinaikos travel to Galatasaray

Galatasaray v Panathinaikos, Europa League, December 3, 2009

Galatasaray 4/5; Draw 23/10; Panathinaikos 11/4

Tensions are bubbling ahead of Thursday’s big Europa League clash between Turkish powerhouse Galatasaray and their blood-rivals from Greece, Panathinaikos.

Gala inflicted a humbling 3-1 (14/1) home defeat on Pana on Matchday 1, and revenge would have an added bonus for the Greek side as they look to seal a top-two finish in Group F. With ten points, Galatasaray have already secured their qualification to the next stage of the Europa League, and victory against their Greek enemies would confirm top spot.

By contrast, Pana’s safe passage to the next phase of the tournament has yet to be assured. A win in Istanbul would propel Henk ten Cate’s team into first place in the group and a draw would also seal qualification. However should Pana lose, that would leave them needing a draw or a win in the last game against Dinamo Bucharest in Athens to qualify in second spot.

Gala’s form heading into the match is strangely Jekyll and Hyde, depending on whether you focus on their European form or their recent domestic results. In the international club arena things are going swimmingly well for the Turks, as they boast a ten match unbeaten run in Europe including seven successes and three draws.

This form also appeared to translate itself into the Turkish Super Lig at the beginning of the season, with the Lions’ attacking prowess looking particularly dangerous. A frontline made up of Harry Kewell, Shabani Nonda, Abdul Kader Keita and Milan Baros was the best in the league, and that allowed Gala to open the season with 12 wins, four draws and one defeat from their opening 17 fixtures. (Galatasaray are 11/5 to win & over 2.5 goals.)

But after Milan Baros broke his foot in the second minute of the match against Fenerbahce in week 10 of the league season, a match which Gala lost 3-1, the decline began in earnest. Most recently, this has included a poor draw at home with Manisaspor, and last weekend’s loss away to Bursaspor.

Further complicating matters for the Turks is the loss of playmaker Arda Turn to illness, the club captain has been diagnosed with contracting the H1N1 virus and is a doubt to be healthy enough for the arrival of the Greeks. (Panathinaikos are 11/2 to win & under 2.5 goals.)

Life at Panathinaikos has also gone off the boil in recent weeks, following a disappointing 1-all home draw with lowly Asteras Tripolis and then the body-blow of a 2-nil defeat to arch-rivals Olympiakos last time out.

Sebastian Leto (injury from a car accident) and Dimitris Salpigidis are touch-and-go having picked up knocks, while defender Giourkas Seitaridis is ineligible to play until the next round having only recently signed from Atletico Madrid.

On the plus side, young Greek right-back Stergos Marinos has recovered from injury and may well force Brazilian defender Gabriel out the team. And looking at the rest of Ten Cate’s squad, the former Chelsea man has the luxury of being able to select the likes of Gilberto Silva, Giorgios Karagounis, Kostas Katsouranis and top-scorer Djibril Cisse (8 goals in 12 matches) for the match.

101predicts: Galatasaray 0 – Panathinaikos 1 (7/1)

Galatasaray 4/5; Draw 23/10; Panathinaikos 11/4

Full match odds here.