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Olympiacos closing on goal

Published: Tuesday 23 November 2004, 11.09CET
Olympiacos CFP welcome RC Deportivo La Coruña with both teams needing three points for differing reasons.
Published: Tuesday 23 November 2004, 11.09CET

Olympiacos closing on goal

Olympiacos CFP welcome RC Deportivo La Coruña with both teams needing three points for differing reasons.

By Paris Ayiomamitis in Athens

Olympiacos CFP welcome RC Deportivo La Coruña on Tuesday aware that victory will take them closer to reaching the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League for only the second time in their history.

Pressure increases
The Greek side lead Group A, perhaps inspired by the summer return of coach Dušan Bajevic, who guided Olympiacos to the quarter-finals in 1998/99 in his previous spell in charge. Bajevic admits the game with Deportivo - who must win to stay in the competition - represents yet another step up in pressure.

Chance for qualification
"This is the most important match for us," Bajevic said. "Like the previous game, this is the match of the season. We have a chance to wrap up qualification if we win tomorrow, but may have to wait until our last fixture." For Olympiacos to progress, they must win and Liverpool FC must avoid defeat at third-placed AS Monaco FC, a point behind the front two.

Bajevic wary
Bajevic, whose team are yet to drop a point at home, believes they have to put events elsewhere out of their mind. "We should not expect help from anyone," he declared. And even though Deportivo are without strikers Diego Tristán, Walter Pandiani and defender Joan Capdevila through injury, as well as the suspended Jorge Andrade, the Olympiacos coach is wary of the Spanish visitors.

'Nothing to lose'
"Deportivo have nothing to lose, it is their last chance," he said. "They have other players who are equally dangerous." Goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis agreed, saying: "Deportivo are still in with a chance. But even if they had nothing to play for, they still have quality and experience."

Goalkeeper urges patience
Olympiacos left it late against Monaco last month, with defender Gabriel Schürrer grabbing a late winner, and Nikopolidis urged fans to show patience again. "We may even have to wait until the final minute to win," he said.

Okkas doubtful
Bajevic is expected to make at least one change to the side that defeated OFI Crete FC 3-0 in the Hellenic National League on Saturday, with midfielder Predrag Djordjevic returning, but striker Ioannis Okkas - also missing at the weekend - has a leg complaint and is a doubtful starter. In the absence of Okkas, Bajevic may turn to Uruguayan Nery Alberto Castillo, who formed a formidable South American trio with Brazilians Rivaldo and Giovanni against OFI.

Deportivo disappointment
Javier Irureta's Deportivo arrived in Athens with the dubious distinction of being the only team in the competition not to have scored a goal, starting with a 0-0 home draw against Olympiacos. Only one side has been unable to register in their opening five Champions League games in a season - Galatasaray SK in 1993/94 - but Deportivo have never failed to get past the group stage.

Victory vital
However, they need victory against opponents with whom they have drawn in all three previous meetings in this competition. Saturday's 2-0 triumph at Villarreal CF in the Primera División at least offered hope of a revival.

'Draw not enough'
Irureta said: "I know it sounds strange, but Deportivo are probably the favourites to win because we need the points more than they do. A draw will not be enough for us." Albert Luque, who is likely to start in attack, also showed signs of confidence, saying: "We have improved recently and will do everything to win."

Last updated: 23/11/04 13.20CET

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