Newcastle United line up for the fourth round qualifier against Greek side Atromitos tonight in the probably sweltering heat of Athens knowing that any positive result will see them in the strongest possible position heading into the return game at St. James’ Park to qualify for the group stages.
Atromitos become the third team from the region following games against Olympiakos and Panionios, neighbours and rivals of Atromitos in previous European ties, and though those teams are relatively well known, Atromitos themselves are comparatively unknown. They’re based in the suburbs of Athens, in a dilapidated stadium still suffering earthquake damage and holding just over 10,000 fans. But with flight prices out to Greece at a premium, unsurprisingly less than fifty tickets have been sold to Newcastle fans and the stadium should cope amply well.
Alan Pardew will be hoping for a good result to take back to St. James’ Park, but he might be forgiven for not having known much about tomorrow night’s opponents ahead of the game. Thankfully for you, we’ve put our research heads on, and come up with a blagger’s guide to the Greek side.
- Founded in May 1923
- Accepted into the Greek football league in 1924.
- Stadium: Peristeri Stadium, Peristeri, Athens (capacity: 10,200)
- Have played in the Greek top flight since 2008–2009 after their most recent promotion.
- Derby against neighbouring team Egaleo and rivalry with former Newcastle European opponents Panionios
- Atromitos are based in western Athens and their main supporters club is called Fentagin. They are dedicated to support the local football team. The younger element of the support are known as the ‘little atoms’.
- Chairman/Owner: Georgios Spanos
- Manager: Dušan Bajević
- Beta Ethniki Champions: 1979–80, 2008–09
- Greek Cup Runners-up: 2010–11, 2011–12
Past European Record
This match will be only the third game played in European competition by Atromitos. Back in 2006/07 they played their only two previous European fixtures, facing Spanish side Sevilla in the first round of the UEFA Cup as it was then known – the same stage of that year’s competition that saw Newcastle face Estonians Levadia Tallinn. The first leg saw a 1-2 defeat at the Peristeri before a resounding 0-4 loss in Spain saw the Greek side crash out at the first hurdle of their first foray into European competition.
Brother of former Newcastle player Shefki Kuqi, and formerly a British-based player thanks to an unsuccessful spell at Birmingham City, and subsequent loans to Blackpool and Peterborough, as well as very short spells at Stevenage and Dundee, Kuqi joined Atromitos this summer following the most prolific spell of his career at Panionios. He will be looking to continue that trend of almost a goal every two games against his brother’s former employers and to respond to the English media who wrote him off after his former spells with British clubs.
Formerly at Liverpool – though he never made a first-team league appearance – tall Frenchman Itandje spent his early career at Red Star and Lens before moving to Liverpool, whom he left in January 2011 after making just seven appearances in total. He joined Atromitos and was instrumental last year in helping the team to the third lowest conceded goals in the Greek Super League as number one. He may well have to be on top form with Senegalese hitman Papiss Cisse in the travelling party from Newcastle.
Another new signing for the Greek side, and another ex-Premier League player, Tavlaridis spent a total of three years at Arsenal, including a brief loan spell at Portsmouth, without really troubling the first-team places. He came to the club via longer and more successful spells at Lille and Saint Etienne and two shorter stints at Larissa and OFI Crete, both of which ended with contract termination thanks to relegation and financial problems respectively.
- 1 Charles Itandje
- 12 Fotios Karagiolidis
- 30 Velimir Radman
- 2 Ioannis Skondras (captain)
- 4 Stathis Tavlaridis
- 6 Sokratis Fytanidis
- 13 Evangelos Nastos
- 18 Evangelos Ikonomou
- 19 Kostas Giannoulis
- 24 Nikolaos Lazaridis
- 28 Anastasios Kantoutsis
- 7 Brito (vice-captain)
- 10 Thanasis Karagounis
- 14 Manolis Kallergis
- 16 Panagiotis Ballas
- 17 Walter Iglesias
- 21 Elini Dimoutsos
- 22 Antonis Athanasiou
- 23 Georgios Makris
- 26 Pitu
- 8 Denis Epstein
- 9 Njazi Kuqi
- 11 Nikola Beljic
- 29 Jamal Arago
- 86 Chumbinho
- 20 FW Tasos Karamanos