Barcelona vs Panathinaikos – Barca expected to have it easy

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Barcelona begin their quest to qualify from the group stages of the Champions League for the ninth time in ten seasons when they host Panathinaikos.

The Catalan giants only failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition in 2004 after finishing sixth in La Liga in the previous season and have topped their group for the last three campaigns.

Barcelona were prevented from becoming the first team to defend the Champions League trophy last season when they were eliminated in the semi-finals by Inter, but are favourites at 11/4 to emerge victorious again this year.

And they have an imperious home record over Panathinaikos and Greek teams in Europe in general.

They beat Panathinaikos 5-0 at the Nou Camp in the group stages in 2006 and knocked them out of the competition at the quarter-final stage in 2002 when winning 3-1 at home to turn around a 1-0 reverse in Greece.

Panathinaikos’ chances are also not helped by the fact that they have lost ten of their 11 games in Spain.

David Villa will be hopeful of marking his first Champions League appearance for Barcelona with a goal and is 11/4 to open the scoring, with the Spanish side 1/8 to claim the three points.

The other Group D clash pits the champions of Denmark and Russia against each other as Copenhagen are at home to Rubin Kazan.

Rubin are 13/8 to follow up on their successful campaign in the competition last year, which included a win in Barcelona, with another victory on their first visit to Denmark.

Meanwhile, Copenhagen, who are also 13/8 to take the three points, failed to win in their only other home game against Russian opponents, which was a 1-1 draw with FC Moskva in the first round of the UEFA Cup in 2009.

Barcelona are 1/10 to finish at the head of Group D, with Rubin 10/1 to top the group. See the whole Group D winners market.

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