The Under-19s’ European journey starts in Poland
Pandemic and legal framework permitting, the UEFA Youth League will start on March 2 and 3, 2021, with PAOK facing Polish debutants Gornik Zabrze.
The match is in the «Round of 64» phase of the Domestic Path. It is a knockout tie and in the draw, that took place in Nyon, Switzerland at noon on January 27, PAOK were drawn as the away side and so the match will be held in Poland.
Due to the existing difficulties in the organization aspect, and the reluctance to make young players travel in the current climate, the competition has taken on a new form. It will now include knockout games from the «Round of 64». The «Round of 32» and «Round of 16» phases will also feature one-legged ties on April 6 and 7, and on April 20 and 21, respectively, while the quarter-finals are scheduled for May 4 and 5. The semi-finals and the final will be take place on May 17 and 20 respectively in Nyon.
The new form of the competition will see the teams divided into two routes, or «paths» as UEFA calls them. In one group, there’s the 32 teams that played in the Champions League, and then there are the other 32 teams that emerged as champions in their national leagues. All 64 teams are divided into groups of eight teams. PAOK belongs to the 1st group together with Celta Vigo (Spain), APOEL (Cyprus), Gornik Zabrze (Poland), Viitorul (Romania), Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia), Gyor (Hungary), Apolonia (Albania).
The Under-19s’ European «adventure»
The Under-19 side has made remarkable progress in Europe and in the UEFA Youth League over the past three seasons. In the 2017-18 season, PAOK faced the Puskas Academy (1-1 away and 0-0 at home), and was then eliminated by Ajax (defeat at home 0–2, and defeat in the Netherlands by 2-1). In the 2018-19 season, they faced AEL Limassol (2-1 in Cyprus and 2-0 in Thessaloniki), Minsk (1-0 in Belarus and 2-1 in Thessaloniki) before being eliminated by Tottenham Hotspur at the Toumba (0- 1) in an unforgettable match in front of 12,000 spectators, being just a breath away from the «Round of 16».
In the 2019-20 season, PAOK faced FC Bohemian (1-1 in Ireland and 1-0 in Thessaloniki) before being eliminated by Dynamo Kiev, as they lost 3-0 in the Ukraine, and despite a titanic attempt to qualify at the Toumba (2-2) they bowed out.