Atletico to take on Panathinaikos for Champions League spot

A week after a first leg win over Greek side Panathinaikos (2-3), Altetico Madrid are going to try to do it again in the second leg to take a place in the Champions League group stage. Elsewhere, Lyon will face Anderlecht in the second round.


AFP - Atletico Madrid will seek to take a temporary, yet lucrative step, out of the huge shadow cast by neighbours Real on Tuesday by completing a qualifying round win over Greek side Panathinaikos to take their place in the Champions League group stage.

The prospect of missing out and having to skulk around the fringes of the continental game in the Europa League, successor of the UEFA Cup, is unthinkable to Atletico, given their need to glean some bragging rights in Spain's football-mad capital.

With Real having spent some than 250 million dollars pre-season on Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso there is a need for the "rojiblancos" to show they can make a decent fist of maintaining their own profile.

That may ultimately prove a thankless task for coach Abel Resino - yet as regards making the group phase Atletico have already done much of the hard work, beating the Greeks 3-2 away in the first leg to set up qulification at a seething Vicente Calderón stadium.

"We deserve to be in the Champions League and to chase after the top prizes," insisted Argentine midfielder Maxi Rodriguez, who scored in the first game along with former Manchester United man Diego Forlan and Diego Maradona's son-in-law Sergio Aguero.

Teammate Alvaro Dominguez told reporters that "we will not be going out for the draw."

But he warned his teammates: "This tie is not over yet - we are up against a good side who will make things tough for us."

Barring a major mishap, Lyon are set for their tenth consecutive appearance in the Champions League group stages - though they have yet to get past the quarter-finals, while Anderlecht are destined for the inaugural Europa League as the Belgians slumped 5-1 in the first leg in France.

Both sides tuned up for Tuesday's return leg in Brussels with success on the domestic front at the weekend.

Lyon maintained their positive start to the new campaign with a 3-0 win over Auxerre, while Anderlecht rattled off their fourth successive win in the Belgian league, defeating Zulte-Waregem 2-0 away.

Lyon manager Claude Puel may have to go into battle without Argentina striker Lisandro Lopez, who missed Saturday's game with a muscle problem.

Brazilian teammate Ederson also sat out that game after picking up an ankle injury.

Last week's humiliation at Lyon's Stade Gerland has sparked intense criticism in the Belgian media, with Anderlecht's goalkeeper Silvio Proto, defenders Marcin Wasilewski and Jelle Van Damme and Czech midfielder Jan Polak targeted.

Coach Ariel Jacobs, who will be withough suspended Van Damme and probably striker Tom De Sutter, commented: "I want us to make amends against Lyon. For our pride first of all, and also for the club's image."

Elsewhere, Israeli side Maccabi Haifa welcome FC Salzburg with the former looking good for qualification after their 2-1 win in Austria.

Swiss outfit FC Zurich likewise have one foot in the group stages after a 3-0 rout at Latvian side FK Ventspils while Debrecen from Hungary are in the driving seat to see off Levski Sofia after coming out of their first leg in Bulgaria as 2-1 winners.

The winners qualify for last-32 group stage of competition while the losers drop into Europa League group stage.

On Wednesday, the pick of the action will be Arsenal's "Battle of Britain" return match against Celtic with the Gunners having already seen off the Scots 2-0 in Glasgow.

Tuesday fixtures

Debrecen (HUN) v Levski Sofia (BUL) (Debrecen lead 2-1)
Anderlecht (BEL) v Lyon (FRA) (Lyon lead 5-1)
Maccabi Haifa (ISR) v FC Salzburg (AUT) (Haifa lead 2-1)
FC Zurich (SUI) v FK Ventspils (LAT) (Zurich lead 3-0)
Atletico Madrid (ESP) v Panathinaikos (GRE) (Atletico lead 3-2)


Arsenal (ENG) v Celtic (SCO) (Arsenal lead 2-0)
Fiorentina (ITA) v Sporting Lisbon (POR) (First leg 2-2)
Apoel Nicosia (CYP) v FC Copenhagen (DEN) 1 (Copenhagen lead 1-0)
Olympiakos (GRE) v Sheriff (MDA) (Olympiakos lead 2-0)
VfB Stuttgart (GER) v Timisoara (ROM) (Stuttgart lead 2-0)

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