McCall: No pressure on Motherwell

PA Sport
Stuart McCall feels the pressure of qualification is on opponents Panathinaikos
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Stuart McCall feels the pressure of qualification is on opponents Panathinaikos

Stuart McCall knows there are few expectations on his Motherwell team compared to the "desperation" of Champions League opponents Panathinaikos to reach the group stages.

But the Motherwell manager will demand his players attain the standards they consistently set last season in qualifying for Europe's elite competition.

McCall, speaking at the pre-match media conference ahead of the third qualifying round first leg at Fir Park, said: "If you listen to what's coming out of their camp, the pressure is on them. Everyone expects them to go through and rightly so."

While Motherwell are awaiting confirmation of the SPL's television deals after warning of serious financial problems caused by the collapse of Rangers, former Ibrox defender Jean-Alain Boumsong has revealed he and his Panathinaikos team-mates are overdue their wages.

McCall added: "I think there is an added pressure with their financial situation. We thought we were struggling in Scotland but if you listen to some stories coming out of their club it actually sounds like desperation stakes - they need to get through.

"It would set us up fantastically financially if we did. But, I don't know if the stories are true, but I saw Mr Boumsong in the papers this morning saying they had not been paid for a wee while. I think there is a lot of pressure on them. They have got some experienced players but they have made a few changes and they have some young lads as well."

Motherwell are making their Champions League debut but players such as 22-year-old Jamie Murphy are preparing for their fourth European campaign.

"A lot of the lads have had European experience, and they talk about it and the staff talk about it," McCall said. "They have enjoyed it and the supporters have certainly enjoyed it. They were unfortunate on one occasion to lose out on the group stages in the Europa.

"Even though they are a young team they have had experience of it and that should stand them in good stead. There is nothing to fear.

McCall has passed Shaun Hutchinson and Jonathan Page fit despite the centre-backs missing most of pre-season through injury. Hutchinson has only played 45 minutes of official friendly action but could line up alongside Motherwell's only summer signing, former Bradford captain Simon Ramsden.

McCall said: "Naturally there is always a slight concern that they haven't had a lot of football, whether big Hutchy can last the 90 minutes. But it's always nice to have nearly everyone fit and it certainly didn't look like that would be the case a couple of weeks ago."

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