PAOK vs Spartak Moscow – Wednesday, August 8, 18:00 BST/19:00 CEST, Toumba Stadium, Thessaloniki, Greece.
A couple of months after the Futbolgrad Network visited Toumba; we focus once again on the team after their qualification for the third round of UEFA Champions League qualifying. After disposing FC Basel 5-1 on aggregate, they now face Spartak Moscow, who begin their campaign in the competition.
Our readers might recall that while finishing second in the Greece Superliga due to objects that were thrown by fans before the game against Olympiakos, PAOK still celebrated the title, the spiritual champions of Greece as Manuel Veth reported back in May. After another incident this time with the president Ivan Savvidis invading the pitch against AEK, PAOK ended up without the league title. Their season wasn’t a complete disaster since they won the Greek Cup against their rivals AEK Athens.
PAOK will hope that their fans continue to fill the stadium and show their support for the team during the first confrontation against Spartak Moscow. Against FC Basel, for the first home game of the season, as the season only starts at the end of August in Greece, almost 25000 fans came to see PAOK win 2-1, with José Canas and Aleksandar Prijović scoring the home team goals and Ajeti scoring for Basel.
Following the 2017/18 campaign, PAOK were quite active in the transfer market. The most important transfer of PAOK are former Corinthians left-winger/striker Léo Jabá for €5 million from Akhmar Grozny, Ukrainian international centre-back Yevhen Khacheridi on a free transfer from Dynamo Kyiv, as well as former Arsenal striker Chuka Apkom for €1 million.
PAOK will want to continue their Champions League qualification winning streak, and although club captain Vieirinha is a probable absence for the first leg, they will want to secure a good lead, without conceding, ahead of their travel to the Otkritie Arena in Moscow next week.
Spartak Moscow’s head coach Massimo Carrera, in the meantime, signed Samuel Gigot from Gent for €8 million and Aleksandr Tashaev from Dinamo Moscow for €1.5 million keeping most of the squad that finished third in the 2017/18 season.
An interesting fact is that Carrera’s team has only scored one goal so far in this season’s league campaign and it was scored by Gigot, the team’s centre back. With players such as Luiz Adriano, Zé Luís and Quincy Promes in the front of their attack, Spartak can create the upset and win against a strong PAOK team.
The forwards of Spartak will want to show their coach that they haven’t forgotten all about scoring goals and hope to hit the scoresheet this Wednesday to bring a positive result if not the win ahead of next week’s clash.
PAOK vs Spartak Moscow – Player to look out for:
Dimitris Limnios – PAOK
The talented left-footed winger can play on both sides of PAOK’s attack. If Lucescu decides to put Omar El Kaddouri instead of Léo Jabá, he will move to the left side instead of the right side where he currently plays. Born of a Brazilian mother and a former amateur football from Greece, Limnios has debuted at the age of 20 in the Greek national team and will be experiencing his second full season with PAOK and his third as a senior. Having played 26 games with only one goal for PAOK, he is hoping to improve his stats and fulfil his potential with the national team.
Sofiane Hanni – Spartak Moscow
Former FC Nantes and French youth national team talent, Sofiane Hanni who is now an Algerian international has had to leave France very early to develop his talent. Having played in Turkey, Belgium and since January 2018 in Russia, the attacking midfielder has not played yet this season, and we think that against PAOK he will be in the starting eleven. Although he has said he would stay in Moscow for this season, if he continues to be ignored by Carrera, he might look for a potential move to England.
PAOK vs Spartak Moscow – Match Stats
- This is the first ever encounter between the two sides.
- Spartak Moscow will be the fourth team from Russia that PAOK will face. CSKA Moscow (2010/11), Rubin Kazan (2011/e12) and Krasnodar (2015/16) for four draws and two defeats.
- PAOK, on the other hand, will be the second team from Greece that Spartak Moscow will play after AEK Athens in 1991/92 for a draw and a defeat.
- In the last ten games: PAOK won six, drew two and lost two while Spartak won seven, drew two and lost one. Spartak haven’t conceded a goal in over 350 min but haven’t scored in almost 180 min. Both teams will want to win their first game against an opponent of from a new country.
- PAOK has two players that have played in the Liga: Léo Jabá (FC Akhmat); Maurício (Terek Grozny/Zenith St. Petersburg) while Spartak has no players that have played in the Greek League
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: PAOK vs Spartak Moscow – 2-0
PAOK vs Spartak Moscow – Possible Lineups
Paschalakis – Crespo, Khacheridi, Varela, Leo Matos – Maurício, José Cañas – Léo Jabá, Pelkas, Limnios – Prijović
Head Coach: Răzvan Lucescu
Maksimenko – Kombarov, Bocchetti, Gigot, Yeshchenko – Glushakov, Fernando, Zobnin – Promes, Zé Luís, Hanni
Head Coach: Massimo Carrera
Thomas holds an MA in Middle Eastern Politics at King’s College London and currently works in Greece as a project leader for Aniko. His MA research is on the relationship between football and politics in Beirut. Thomas’ career led him to several opportunities in sports in general, having worked for the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace and in the football industry in London. Born in Toulouse, Thomas has lived most of his life between Florianopolis (Brazil), Toulouse and London and Thessaloniki which helped him develop some language skills. Thomas firmly believes in the power of football as a tool for social development. Follow Thomas on Twitter @thomasfarines