By Paris Ayiomamitis in Athens
Both coaches believe that Wednesday's Group A match between Olympiacos CFP and AS Monaco FC at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium will be decisive in their bids to advance beyond the group stage in the UEFA Champions League.
Olympiacos have four points, two fewer than leaders Monaco, and victory will move them to the top of the group with two matches remaining. A victory for Monaco will keep the French team in full command of the section.
'Match of the season'
Dusan Bajevic, the Olympiacos coach, did not attempt to underplay the importance of the fixture at Tuesday's press conference. "This is the match of the season because, if we win it, we have a chance of wrapping up qualification in the home match against RC Deportivo La Coruña," he said.
His French counterpart, Didier Deschamps, voiced similar sentiments. "The points are very important to us. If we can get at least a point it will help our campaign in a very competitive group," said the Monaco coach. "
The only way to get a result is to attack," he added, hinting at his tactical plans.
Monaco, last year's losing finalists, won the sides' first encounter 2-1 at the Stade Louis II a fortnight ago but Olympiacos almost salvaged an unlikely draw as they showed sufficient character to mount a second-half assault after Monaco had stormed into an early 2-0 lead. It was Olympiacos's first defeat in the campaign after holding Deportivo to a goalless draw at the Riazor and beating Liverpool FC 1-0 in Athens.
Bajevic insisted his team had learned their lesson from the loss. "In the first match we didn't play well in the opening ten minutes and it cost us," he said. "We will try not to repeat the same mistakes."
Rivaldo opens account
Olympiacos midfield player Pantelis Kafes played an influential role in that match and hopes this time it will be Monaco forced on to the back foot. "
We'll try to stun them as they did to us in the first match," the Greek international said. The Athens side should be high on confidence after a 5-1 rout of PAOK Salonica FC at the weekend, Brazilian star Rivaldo scoring his first two goals of the season.
However, Bajevic warned: "This is a different match. We must be even more determined, faster and more cautious against Monaco." There should be starts for defender Anastasios Pantos, back after suspension, and Serbo-Montenegrin midfield player Predrag Djordjevic, a substitute in Monaco.
Monaco have never won on Greek soil and travelled to Athens on the back of victories against Deportivo and Olympiacos which followed their opening loss at Liverpool FC. On the domestic front, they drew 1-1 at Olympique de Marseille on Friday, a result that stretched their winless streak in Ligue 1 to five matches.
Deschamps reiterated his belief that Olympiacos are group favourites. "I have not changed my opinion about them. Their second-half performance against us proved they can cause a lot of problems," he said. "They have great players like Rivaldo, Giovanni and [Ioannis] Okkas.
We must not give them space to play."
'Everyone is ready'
That said, Deschamps believes a repeat of his players' first-half showing at the Stade Louis II would provide the perfect platform. "If we can play the same way in Athens then we will create a lot of chances," he said. The return of Congolese forward Shabani Nonda should help and Deschamps added: "Everyone is ready."
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