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Olympiacos CFP celebrate their 80th birthday on Thursday and will hope to mark the occasion with a morale-boosting UEFA Cup victory over Newcastle United FC in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium.
Olympiacos, who were founded on 10 March 1925, need something to celebrate after losing sole possession of top spot in the Alpha Ethniki on Sunday. Having seen Panathinaikos FC make up seven points in the past month, Dušan Bajevic's side dropped two more at the weekend, drawing 1-1 away to PAOK Thessaloniki.
Olympiacos went ahead through Predrag Djordjevic's 21st-minute penalty, but PAOK hit back after the break. A week earlier, two goals from Ieroklis Stoltidis and one from Georgios Anatolakis had ensured a comfortable 3-0 win over Halkidona FC in Olympiacos's other league match since qualifying for the last 16.
Although Rivaldo and Mavrogenidis are expected to return to full fitness for the visit of Newcastle, Olympiacos coach Dusan Bajevic is not planning to be too adventurous in the first leg. "Our main target will be not to concede any goals," he said, with his side's four 1-0 victories against European opposition this season in mind. "But Newcastle are a very strong side so we must take advantage of our fans' presence."
Right-back Anastassios Pantos believes his defensive colleagues should not make the mistake of concentrating too much on former England striker Alan Shearer. "An English side are always very dangerous," he said. "We must not focus only on Shearer, who is an excellent and very experienced player, but on Newcastle as a whole."
Newcastle will be looking for their sixth consecutive win as manager Graeme Souness hopes to build on an excellent run which has coincided with the resumption of the UEFA Cup. Striker Patrick Kluivert could return to the starting lineup but Celestine Babayaro is ruled out with a knee injury.
Aaron Hughes is likely to play at left-back while Andy O'Brien is set to replace the ineligible Jean-Alain Boumsong at centre-back. Also missing is Darren Ambrose with a thigh strain. "We're expecting a tough game in Athens, there's no doubt about that," said Souness. "It will be hostile, but that doesn't faze me or the players as we've all experienced that sort of stuff before."
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