PAOK will begin their UEFA Europa League campaign at the Toumba Stadium on Thursday, against competition favourites Chelsea.
PAOK will host the English giants in front of a hostile, sold out Toumba Stadium on Thursday in matchday one of the UEFA Europa League group stages. The anticipated clash sold out within 2 hours of when tickets were put out on sale, making this PAOK’s fourth sell out home fixture out of five games thus far.
Both teams will be eager to get their Europa League campaign off to a great start as Chelsea and PAOK are the two favourites to advance from Group L at the expense of BATE Borisov and Vidi. Newly appointed Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri, stated that PAOK will be his team’s most difficult test within the group.
After falling short in the UEFA Champions League playoffs in a gallant run, PAOK will be aiming to advance through the group stages and to the round of 32 of the competition. The Thessalonikis have been playing great football and have managed to claim four wins from four Greek Super League games, currently finding themselves 4th in the league table (started with a two point deduction). Over the weekend, PAOK came from a goal behind to defeat newly promoted OFI 1:3 in a tricky win away from home.
Chelsea have been one of the most inform clubs in Europe as they currently sit in top spot in the domestic English Premier League. The London side have made a fantastic start to the new campaign under Sarri with their most recent win coming over Cardiff City in 4:1 thrashing over the weekend.
TEAM NEWS: PAOK
In good news for PAOK, they will be bolstered by the return of main attacking threat Aleksandar Prijović from injury. The Serbian striker has scored an impressive five goals from nine appearances in the Europa League. However, Romanian manager Razvan Lucescu has left out of the roster both newly signed attackers, Nikos Karelis and Chuba Akpom. PAOK will also be without right full back Leo Matos, who will miss the clash due to suspension, which occurred in PAOK’s playoff defeat to Benfica.
Possible line-up: Paschalakis, Kitsiou, Varela, Crespo, Vieirinha, Canas, Maurício, Pelkas, Biseswar, Warda, Prijović
TEAM NEWS: CHELSEA
Chelsea have left out star player Eden Hazard after his most recent hattrick over Cardiff City on the weekend. He will be rested and left in London along with centre back David Luiz, midfielder Mateo Kovacic, and left-back Emerson Palmieri. Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri announced that he would make up to five changes to the team that played on the weekend in the English Premier League.
Possible line-up: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Christensen, Alonso, Kante, Jorginho, Fabregas, Pedro, Morata, Willian
REFEREE: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (ESP)
Alberto Undiano Mallenco, a 44-year old referee from Spain, has been appointed by UEFA to referee the PAOK-Chelsea encounter in Greece. He first became a referee in the La Liga back in 2000 and in 2010, was selected by FIFA to officiate matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
He has been awarded with the Don Balón Award, the highest honor for Spanish referees, in 2005 and also 2007. He previously officiated PAOK back in 2015 in the UEFA Europa League playoffs in PAOK’s 5-0 home victory over Brondby.