The recreation room at Olympiacos FC's training ground at Rentis is filled with trophies and the walls adorned with posters capturing the club's 40 Greek championships.
January signing Nelson Valdez was absorbing it all earlier this month as he waited for training to begin. Defender Iván Marcano, who recently rejoined the Piraeus side on loan – this time from FC Rubin Kazan – was on hand to answer the Paraguay striker's queries about his new team. "They celebrate a lot, don't they?" observed Valdez. "Thirteen titles in the last 15 seasons," Marcano replied.
There are no signs of the conveyor belt of silverware coming into the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium slowing down. Míchel's men are within touching distance of another championship, 20 points clear of second-placed PAOK FC in the Super League with eight games remaining. Undefeated in 26 top-flight fixtures this season, averaging exactly three goals a match and having conceded just nine, they are on course to clinch a 41st crown in record time.
Since their Spanish tactician took over just over a year ago, Olympiacos have posted 44 victories from 55 outings in all competitions, suffering only four losses – twice against Levante UD in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League round of 32, and likewise versus Paris Saint-Germain in their UEFA Champions League group this term. The supremely confident, bullish manner in which they have won games has been particularly well received.
Míchel is too savvy to fall victim to complacency, though, with his team's UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie with Manchester United FC looming. The players must also remain grounded amid sensationalist headlines in Greece hailing the "unbeatables" and suggesting there are "no rival for them".
The 50-year-old coach also recognises that now is not the time to let up, especially in the absence of striking talisman Kostas Mitroglou, sold to Fulham FC last month. "Intensity" and "focus" have been the operative words from Míchel as he prepares his troops for the test of United – starting at home on Tuesday. Whether Olympiacos respond remains to be seen, but as someone who has played at the elite level for Real Madrid CF, there is no better mentor to keep them buzzing.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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