Built in 1950, the Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium blends in unobtrusively with the school, shops and apartment buildings around it, but lives an exciting double life as a European fortress.
In the course of 40 years – and 24 home games in UEFA club competition – no visiting team has triumphed at the home of Greece's Aris Thessaloniki FC, despite some European giants coming to call. However, that record will be tested to the limit as Manchester City FC visit in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie on 15 February.
"Manchester City are a powerhouse," conceded caretaker coach and former Aris player Giannis Michalitsos, who took over following Héctor Cúper's departure in January. "You only have to think how they had Emmanuel Adebayor on the bench and now he is a first-team player since going to Real Madrid on loan."
Overcoming Roberto Mancini's men will be no small task. If Aris are to extend that unbeaten run to 25 matches, the 53-year-old Michalitsos told UEFA.com his side must "give our best possible performance and, at the same time, hope Manchester City don't hit their peak against us".
"There is no secret to Aris's home success," he added. "It's a record that spans four decades and many generations of players. The common factor is the fans. It is no cliche: our supporters transmit their energy to the players – they can lift them when they are feeling down, they sing non-stop for two hours, it's impressive.
"I've experienced it from the pitch, as a player, and from the sidelines, and it's difficult to describe the feeling," he continued. City will soon see how it feels for themselves.
Five great Kleanthis Vikelidis results
• Aris 1-1 Chelsea FC
16 September 1970, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup first round first leg
Aris's first outing in UEFA competition brought a strong Chelsea side to Salonika, from where they escaped with a draw after Peter Osgood cancelled out Alekos Alexiadis's effort late on. The London club would return to Greece later that season, beating Real Madrid CF 2-1 in the final in Athens.
• Aris 3-1 SL Benfica
19 September 1979, UEFA Cup first round first leg
José Sasía's team kicked off a fine 1979/80 UEFA Cup campaign with a confident home win, with Kostas Ballis, Thodoros Pallas and Giorgos Zindros getting the goals on home soil. They would go 2-0 down in a return leg in which all seemed lost until Giorgos Semertzidis scored ten minutes from time to put them through.
• Aris 3-3 AS Saint-Etienne
12 December 1979, UEFA Cup third round second leg
A 4-1 first-leg defeat by the French outfit dealt Aris a killer blow, yet a side featuring Johnny Rep, Jean-François Larios and future UEFA president Michel Platini were pegged back at the last in the Salonika rematch. Michalitsos remembered: "That was maybe the most exciting game I have ever played at home in Europe. At that time St-Etienne were a massive side."
• Aris 3-1 Ipswich Town FC
1 October 1980, UEFA Cup first round second leg
Beaten 5-1 at Portman Road, Michal Vican's charges could easily have gone through the motions in the return fixture, but were within sight of a stunning comeback after goals from Thalis Tsirimokos, Kostas Drabis and Tasos Zelelidis put them 3-0 up with 25 minutes to go. Eric Gates struck back, however, and Bobby Robson's team went on to win the competition.
• Aris 1-0 Club Atlético de Madrid
16 September 2010, UEFA Europa League group stage
Javito's searing left-footed drive upstaged the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup holders on Matchday 1 of this season's group stage. Michalitsos called it "an outstanding victory given how many starters we had missing through injury." Aris would prove it was no fluke by sneaking past Atlético 3-2 in the second instalment in Spain.
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