Preview: Panathinaikos vs. Marseille – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday’s Champions League clash between Panathinaikos and Marseille, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Ligue 1 powerhouses Marseille begin their quest for a place in the Champions League group stages when they meet Panathinaikos in Wednesday’s qualifying third-round first leg.

Meanwhile, their Greek hosts have already eliminated Ukraine’s Dnipro-1 5-3 on aggregate ahead of the visit of the French giants to Athens’ Leoforos Alexandras Stadium.

Match preview

Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelino Garcia Toral reacts on March 2, 2022© Reuters

As the Russian invasion continues to cause untold devastation for the Ukrainian people, teams from the nation competing in Europe have been forced to play their designated ‘home’ games on neutral territory, and Panathinaikos took full advantage of the situation during their second-round affair with Dnipro-1.

Ivan Jovanovic‘s side were the ‘visitors’ to Slovakia in the first leg, where they established a healthy 3-1 advantage before welcoming Dnipro to their Athens base for the second leg, where all that was required to advance was avoiding a calamitous three-goal capitulation.

Dnipro did threaten a miraculous turnaround through Artem Dovbyk and Eduard Sarapiy, but Andraz Sporar‘s second goal of the night drew Panathinaikos level at 2-2, and a red card to Dnipro substitute Volodymyr Tanchyk just six minutes after his introduction laid any doubts to rest.

While it was a far from vintage display from Panathinaikos in the second leg last Tuesday, the Shamrock are potentially just four games away from a first Champions League group-stage appearance since the 2010-11 campaign, but the third-round curse has bedevilled them in recent years.

Indeed, Panathinaikos’ last two attempts to reach the promised land in 2014-15 and 2015-16 qualifying ended in the third round, and the 1971 finalists made it as far as the playoff round in 2012-13 before coming unstuck against Malaga.

Marseille's Sead Kolasinac celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on March 5, 2023© Reuters

The less said about Marseille’s most recent foray into the Champions League group stages the better, as Les Olympiens finished fourth in their 2022-23 season behind Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon and Eintracht Frankfurt, marking the third time in a row that they have failed to reach the knockout stages.

However, Les Olympiens may get another bite at the cherry in the upcoming campaign, as Igor Tudor led the 1993 Champions League winners to a third-placed finish in the 2022-23 Ligue 1 campaign, although a miserable set of end-of-season results saw them lose their grip on second place to Lens.

Whispers of a possible title charge slowly grew quieter as the season entered its dying embers, as Marseille lost four of their final five games to miss out on automatic group-stage qualification, and Marcelino is the man tasked with leading his side through the latter portions of qualifying after Tudor’s resignation.

The former Villarreal, Valencia, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao boss oversaw a pre-season campaign that was nothing to write home about, as Les Olympiens got the better of Nimes and RKC Waalwijk but were bested by Eupen and Bayer Leverkusen, losing 2-1 to the latter last week.

Marseille have only ever been forced to go through Champions League qualifying twice before in the 2003-04 and 2008-09 seasons, and the French powerhouses progressed to the tournament proper on both occasions, but Wednesday’s game will mark their first-ever competitive showdown with Panathinaikos.

Panathinaikos Champions League form:

Marseille friendly form:

Team News

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring for Chelsea on October 11, 2022© Reuters

With the new Greek Super League season not starting until the third weekend of August for Panathinaikos, Jovanovic’s side can solely focus on their European sojourns and should enter the first leg with no fitness concerns whatsoever.

However, winger Sebastian Palacios was hooked at half time in last week’s 2-2 draw with Dnipro, and the 31-year-old is facing intense competition from Daniel Mancini and Benjamin Verbic to keep his place on the right.

Since their last outing, Panathinaikos have captured USA international defender Erik Palmer-Brown from French outfit Troyes, but the 26-year-old may only be afforded minutes off the bench in any possible debut this week.

Marseille have also splashed the cash in the transfer market this summer, acquiring a host of new players in Renan Lodi, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Ismaila Sarr, Iliman Ndiaye, Ruben Blanco and, of course, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The former Chelsea and Arsenal striker reinforces the Olympiens attack after the exits of Dimitri Payet, Alexis Sanchez, Luis Suarez and Arkadiusz Milik, while Aubameyang’s former Arsenal teammate Sead Kolasinac has also departed for Atalanta BC.

Aubameyang, Sarr and Ndiaye all started in a new-look attacking setup against Leverkusen, but the latter had to be replaced just before the hour due to an apparent calf concern, so Vitinha will be on standby.

Panathinaikos possible starting lineup:
Brignoli; Kotsiras, Jedvaj, Magnusson, Mladenovic; Vilhena, Perez, Djuricic; Mancini, Sporar, Bernard

Marseille possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Clauss, Gigot, Mbemba, Lodi; Veretout, Kondogbia, Rongier; Sarr, Vitinha, Aubameyang

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We say: Panathinaikos 1-2 Marseille

Marseille have undergone a significant attacking transition this summer, and Marcelino’s new forwards may take some time to gel with one another, offering Panathinaikos hope of a positive result on home soil.

The Greek giants can be expected to breach the Olympiens’ backline at least once, but Marseille still boast a host of players with plenty of continental nous, and the visitors should take a first-leg lead back to base.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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