Chelsea play PAOK in Europa League Group L at Stamford Bridge on Thursday. Here’s the lowdown on the Greek side, who will be looking to cause an upset against the Blues.
Love of London, but mixed form
PAOK’s two previous visits to England, and London, saw them earn a 1-1 draw at Arsenal in 1997 and a 2-1 win over Tottenham in 2011. September’s loss to Chelsea, inflicted by Willian’s early goal, was the first time in five meetings PAOK have lost to English opposition. All of PAOK’s losses this season have come in Europe. The Greek Superleague leaders – unbeaten domestically with 10 wins from 11 games – have twice lost to Hungarians Vidi, while their only other defeat this season was to Benfica in Champions League qualifying.
Premier League experience
Three PAOK players – Chuba Akpom, Jose Angel Crespo and Jose Canas – have played in the Premier League. Akpom played for Arsenal, alongside Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud. Crespo had a brief spell at Aston Villa and Canas is formerly of Swansea. Omar El Kaddouri, meanwhile, played alongside Jorginho and under Maurizio Sarri at Napoli.
Europa League fans
PAOK are playing in the Europa League for a 10th successive year, reaching the group stage six times and the knockout stages on four of those occasions. This will be PAOK’s 41st match in the Europa League group stage. Only Red Bull Salzburg of Austria and Steaua Bucharest of Romania have played more.
Razvan Lucescu is a former goalkeeper who enjoyed early success as a coach with Rapid Bucharest, winning back-to-back domestic cups and reaching the UEFA Cup quarter-finals. Two years as Romania boss followed before he enhanced his reputation in Greece. He has won a Greek Cup and finished runner-up in the Superleague with PAOK.