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Daunting start for Kollias

Published: Tuesday 22 October 2002, 21.07CET
Manchester United FC are in town for Olympiakos Piraeus FC's caretaker coach's first match.
Published: Tuesday 22 October 2002, 21.07CET

Daunting start for Kollias

Manchester United FC are in town for Olympiakos Piraeus FC's caretaker coach's first match.

By Kevin Ashby

Caretaker coach Yiannis Kollias faces a daunting introduction to UEFA Champions League football when Olympiakos Piraeus FC aim to revive their hopes in Group F against Manchester United FC.

Perfect record
The English side lead the section by six points having won each of their three matches so far, including a 4-0 home thrashing of Wednesday's opponents last time out. Despite Olympiakos topping the Alpha Ethniki, Panagiotis Lemonis was sacked the following week and Kollias, a former club scout, stepped in.

Friendly matches
The 69-year-old Kollias's cause has not been helped by the month-long suspension of the Greek top flight. Olympiakos have been forced to play friendly matches to maintain match fitness, the latest of which was a 4-0 success against second division Atromitos.

'Must avoid defeat'
Kollias knows a positive result is vital if Olympiakos are not to lose ground on Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Maccabi Haifa FC, who meet in Germany and also have three points each. "If we want to maintain any hope of qualification, we must avoid defeat," he said.

'Manchester have weaknesses'
"In my opinion, Manchester are one of the best sides in the world but we have to fight for our goal. Like every team, Manchester have certain weaknesses and if we can hold them and stop their attacking game, we can get a result."

Zé Elias suspended
Stelios Venetidis, rested on Saturday, is fit and eager to play in a side missing injured striker Alexis Alexandris. An enforced change will see Edu Dracena replace his fellow Brazilian Zé Elias, suspended after his red card at Old Trafford.

Milestone for Giggs
With Nicky Butt absent again after sitting out Saturday's 1-1 draw with Fulham FC, Verón will again marshal a central midfield also missing Roy Keane. David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, who made his 500th appearance for United on Saturday, will patrol the wings.

Broken record
Rio Ferdinand and striker Ruud van Nistelrooij did not travel, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjær as United's spearhead. Last season United became the first team to win at Olympiakos in the Champions League - an unbeaten record that had stretched 16 matches. If the Red Devils avoid defeat on Wednesday they will qualify for the second group stage once again, but manager Sir Alex Fergsuon has refused to play for a point.

'Patience and quickness'
"We are showing our experience in Europe now," said the Scot. "We are showing patience and quickness of play at times. We only need a draw, but we are going there to win." Sir Alex also thinks Olympiakos's return to the Rizoupoli will add to the occasion. "It will be a bit of a cauldron and the atmosphere will be electric."
 
'Marvellous atmosphere'
The United manager continued: "It will be a marvellous atmosphere, they have a lot of good experienced players in their team - as we have found out over the last two years - and we are going to have to perform."

Last updated: 23/10/02 12.34CET

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