The first leg of a tie contested between two domestic league runners-up takes place in Slovakia, due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Having finished clear of Dynamo Kyiv and Zorya Luhansk to take second spot in the Ukrainian Premier League last season, Dnipro earned a place in the Champions League qualification process, alongside champions Shakhtar Donetsk.
Since the Russian invasion, the side from Ukraine’s fourth-largest city have been based in Uzhhorod, near the Slovakian border, and after failing in the Europa League playoffs this time last year they completed their Europa Conference League campaign at Kosicka Futbalova Arena.
Most members of the first-team squad have relocated to Kosice too, continuing a turbulent time for the club: in 2018, FC Dnipro was forced into bankruptcy – leaving coach Juande Ramos among many left unpaid – and a new team was then created from the ashes of financial meltdown.
Champions of the 2018-19 Ukrainian First League, the club now named Dnipro-1 were promoted to the Ukrainian top flight, in which they ended their most recent campaign only five points shy of dominant Shakhtar.
Oleksandr Kucher’s side also made it out of their Conference League group by winning three of six games to follow PSV through to the knockout phase, which they then exited at the hands of AEK Larnaca; losing 1-0 on aggregate.
Now offered a shot at upsetting the odds and reaching Europe’s grandest stage, Dnipro’s first opponents will be another side that finished runners-up in their domestic league last term.
Panathinaikos led the Greek Super League for virtually the whole 2022-23 season, but they were ultimately pipped at the post by Athens rivals AEK and a 13-year title drought therefore rolls on.
Failing to fully capitalise on an implosion at old foes Olympiakos, the Greens came up five points short in the championship round, but they still secured the consolation of a place in Champions League qualifying.
Last summer, Ivan Jovanovic’s side crashed out of the Conference League qualifiers to Slavia Prague, so they will aim to fare better in the coming weeks; in preparation they have won five of seven warm-up matches, but lost 1-0 at home to Rayo Vallecano last Tuesday.
The 1971 European Cup finalists have struggled to make an impact on continental competition of late and last reached the Champions League group stage in 2010, and three rounds still separate them from rejoining Europe’s elite this time around.
Dnipro-1 form (all competitions):
Panathinaikos form (all competitions):
We say: Dnipro-1 2-2 Panathinaikos
Either side will fancy their chances of progressing to the next round, so both could go forward in an attempt to build a first-leg lead. With new signings settling in to both squads, space could open up for several chances to be created by two well-matched teams.