The official website for European football

Win or bust for Olympiacos

Published: Monday 24 November 2003, 22.01CET
Three points will be the only item on the agenda for Olympiacos CFP and Real Sociedad de Fútbol in Athens.

Tournament statistics

OlympiacosReal Sociedad

Goals scored6
Attempts on target31
Attempts off target35
Fouls committed109
Yellow cards15
Red cards1

Media Services

Published: Monday 24 November 2003, 22.01CET

Win or bust for Olympiacos

Three points will be the only item on the agenda for Olympiacos CFP and Real Sociedad de Fútbol in Athens.

By Paris Ayiomamitis in Athens

Three points will be the only item on the agenda for Olympiacos CFP and Real Sociedad de Fútbol when the teams meet in Athens on Tuesday.

On a high
The home side at the Georgios Kamaras Rizoupolis stadium are riding high after a 3-0 win against Galatasaray SK on Matchday 4 and will want to hold on to third place in UEFA Champions League Group D. There is also the small matter of avenging a 1-0 defeat in San Sebastian in September. But Olympiacos coach Oleg Protasov warned against expecting too much against "an opponent who also need the win".

Midfield battle
"Real Sociedad play on the break and it will be crucial to stop the ball getting to Nihat [Kahveci] and [Darko] Kovacevic who are very quick in attack," he explained. While Nihat and Kovacevic carry the attacking threat, the battle will be won and lost in midfield, according to Protasov. "If we control the midfield, we shouldn't have a problem. We have to find ways of breaking them down, while making sure they don't hit us on the counterattack."

Djordjevic out
However, Olympiacos will be without influential midfield player and captain Pedrag Djordjevic, who was sent off against Galatasaray three weeks ago. His trademark runs are key to the Greek champions' game plan, yet his absence is an obstacle they can overcome, says Protasov. "He is a big loss to us, but we have other options," the Ukrainian insisted.

Dangerous duo
A combination of Brazilian forward Giovanni and Uruguayan youngster Nery Alberto Castillo will be asked to provide the inspiration that the Serbo-Montenegrin normally brings. So far this season, the pair have contributed eleven goals in all competitions.

Advantage Olympiacos
Both men scored in the victory against Galatasaray which, following a 1-0 defeat in Istanbul, gave Olympiacos the better head-to-head record against the Turkish team - and the advantage in the race to finish at least third in the section. "If we make it to the UEFA Cup, we'll still have the chance to prove how good this team is," said Protasov, who should have Ieroklis Stoltidis available despite a knock suffered in Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Panathinaikos FC which kept his team top of the Greek table.

Team news
However, with four points separating them from Tuesday's visitors, Olympiakos could yet have a claim for runners-up spot. They will therefore hope that Anastasios Pantos recovers from injury to play at right-back, with Dimitrios Mavrogenidis operating in front of him and Giorgios Georgiadis on the left of midfield.

'Breathing space'
Real Sociedad, meanwhile, will be missing the injured Javier De Pedro and Lionel Potillon, a midfield player and defender respectively, for a match that could provide some much-needed "breathing space" in the group. Three points would secure their progress to the knockout phase, and coach Raynald Denoueix said: "The game is decisive for our qualifying prospects, so a win is very important."

Mixed fortunes
The Frenchman was also quick to mention "the two very different campaigns" that his team are having this season. Competitive in the Champions League, they have slipped to 16th place in the Spanish Primera División after Saturday's 1-0 home defeat by RCD Mallorca. He said: "[Real midfield player Valeri] Karpin said that, subconsciously, the players are more motivated for the Champions League than they are for the league, and if he is saying that, then I hope to see a very motivated and focused Real against Olympiacos. If we win tomorrow we are through to the last 16."

Last updated: 25/11/03 11.09CET