By Matthew Spiro in Monaco
AS Monaco FC coach Didier Deschamps has told his players they will have to improve their defending to defeat Group A leaders Olympiacos CFP.
The visitors have started their UEFA Champions League campaign impressively, securing a goalless draw at RC Deportivo La Coruña before beating Liverpool FC at home. Deschamps said: "They are the best team I have seen in the group," he said. "They defend high up the pitch, they have very technical midfield players and, above all, tremendous attacking potential."
Monaco are now fourth in Ligue 1 after letting in four late goals to lose 4-3 against OGC Nice, then conceding an equaliser in the closing stages of Saturday's 1-1 draw with FC Metz. Deschamps admitted they could not afford any more defensive lapses on Tuesday, saying: "We need to find a better balance between attack and defence and that means changing the way we play during certain periods of games."
He added: "The team that defends better will win because both sides have a lot of attacking quality. With guys like Rivaldo, Giovanni, [Predrag] Djordjevic, [Ioannis] Okkas and [Grigorios] Georgatos they will score a lot of goals this season." Deschamps, though, suggested he would not allocate a man-marker for Rivaldo. "The problem is that Rivaldo operates all over the pitch so it's difficult to neutralise him completely," he explained. "Even if you put someone on him he can influence the match."
Monaco look set to stick with a four-man defence after beating Deportivo 2-0 with that system in their second Group A game, following the defeat at Liverpool. Captain Julien Rodriguez, who will renew his central defensive partnership with Sébastien Squillaci, is not unduly concerned by Monaco's dip in form. "We've conceded goals recently but we've also kept clean sheets this season," the defender pointed out. "We know how to defend, it's just a matter of being consistent."
The return of midfield player Lucas Bernardi after a six-week absence means that Patrice Evra could miss out as Gaël Givet continues at left-back. In attack, meanwhile, Deschamps must decide whether to play Javier Saviola or Mohamed Kallon in a withdrawn role behind the in-form Emmanuel Adebayor and fit-again Ernesto Chevantón, who is set for his first Champions League start.
Olympiacos coach Dusan Bajevic admitted his team were in a strong position and urged them to capitalise on this. "It's a crucial game for both teams, but maybe we have a slight advantage because we know that a draw would be a good result," he said. "If we avoid defeat it would be a big step towards qualification."
Midfield player Georgios Georgiadis has not travelled to France after only recently returning from injury, but Bajevic otherwise has no fitness concerns. Indeed his biggest worry appears to be ensuring that his players do not become complacent.
"We are playing well - better than in recent years," Bajevic said. "But we have to be careful. The Greek journalists are getting carried away, saying that we are favourites to win. We will also have a lot of supporters in Monaco which leads to more expectation. But we have to remain humble and respect our opposition because they have a team that is full of quality."
Defender Dimitrios Mavrogenidis concurred, saying: "We must focus on this game and not think about what we have already achieved in the Champions League. Of course we have a great chance to move nearer to qualification and we will give absolutely everything to get a result."
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