Panathinaikos shrugs at Barcelona challenge

Published Nov. 23, 2010 12:58 p.m. ET

With Barcelona looking to claim a spot in the knockout round of the Champions League on Wednesday, Panathinaikos is hoping to avoid another thrashing.

Panathinaikos was routed 5-1 in its opening group game at Camp Nou and has only taken two points from four matches. Barcelona, meanwhile, leads the group and is heading to Athens on the back of a 8-0 victory at Almeria - the biggest away win in the Spanish league in 51 years.

Lionel Messi has scored five times in the Champions League this season, including two against Panathinaikos on Sept. 14, and remains in fearsome form.

Messi scored a hat trick on Saturday to take his overall goal tally in all competitions - including with Argentina - to 24 goals in just 19 games. He has scored 14 goals in his last eight club games.

The Argentina forward became only the fourth player in Barcelona history to go over 100 league goals with his seventh career hat trick and will likely pass Samuel Eto'o for third this season.

"We were efficient," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said of the latest league triumph. "The team is playing well and can still improve."

Gerard Pique is Guardiola's main injury concern, and he was left out to rest a sore foot. Gabriel Milito remains out with a thigh injury, while winger Jeffren Suarez is traveling to Greece after recovering from a back complaint.


Barcelona has won six straight in the league, but was held 1-1 in its last Champions League match at FC Copenhagen.

In Greece, Panathinaikos shares the league lead with Olympiakos, but disappointing form led to a recent shake up, with the club owners bringing in new coach Jesualdo Ferreira.

France striker Djibril Cisse was promoted to captain, and is likely to pair with 20-year-old Sotiris Ninis, who is back from injury. Winger Sebastian Leto is fighting to overcome a left knee injury.

Cisse, who scored twice Saturday in the 4-2 win over Iraklis, appeared relaxed about taking on the Spanish powerhouse.

"It's a tough game, so we'll do our best not to lose?" Cisse said. "If we can win - why not?"