Bayer 04 Leverkusen are primed to settle a score and qualify against Olympiakos Piraeus FC.
By Mark Bennett
Bayer 04 Leverkusen's hopes of advancing beyond the first group stage looked forlorn following defeats in their opening two Group F matches. Revived by successive victories, however, last season's UEFA Champions League runners-up will now progress with a home success against Olympiakos Piraeus FC on Tuesday.
Ready to kick back
Qualification by virtue of maximum points against the Greek champions would hold special resonance for Klaus Toppmöller after his side were humbled 6-2 by Olympiakos on Matchday One. "If you have been kicked once you don't hang around waiting until you get kicked again - you kick back first," the Leverkusen coach said. "Last season we managed to settle all of our scores in the BayArena and that is what we are looking to do again this time around. We have got everything in our own hands."
'Finish the job'
Despite the emphatic nature of the scoreline in Athens, embarrassing Olympiakos is not on Toppmöller's agenda. "The goal difference from the two games is of no concern now and I would be satisfied with a 1-0 win," he said. "I can assure you my players know what is expected of them and that they are ready to finish the job."
Despite an excellent home record stained only by Manchester United FC - last week's 3-2 success adding to the English side's triumph in Athens the previous season - Olympiakos are yet to win away in six seasons of Champions League football, registering three draws and 15 defeats. A draw on Tuesday would leave them needing to beat Maccabi Haifa FC in their final game while relying on United to beat Leverkusen.
Leverkusen drew 1-1 at Hertha BSC Berlin on Saturday, a match notable for the return of Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov after he sprained an ankle in a EURO 2004™ qualifier against Croatia. Toppmöller confirmed that the 21-year-old would play against Olympiakos, probably at the expense of Franca. Whether he is joined by Carsten Ramelow remains to be seen. The club captain sat out the weekend draw with a stomach virus and Hanno Balitsch stands by to deputise.
Yiannis Kollias, the caretaker coach of Olympiakos, has urged a side once more missing the suspended Zé Elias to show the sort of spirit which saw them fight back from 2-0 down against United before an eventual 3-2 loss. "Our players know exactly what I expect and they will do their best so that we have a chance of qualifying," he said "I believe in a defensive formation as we have midfield players with the ability to get forward."
One such player, Christian Karembeu, is fit to play after injuring himself in the 1-1 weekend draw with FC PAOK Thessaloniki. Olympiakos fielded a 5-4-1 formation in that match for the first time this season, with Predrag Djordjevic and Stylianos Giannakopoulos encouraged to join lone striker Lampros Choutos whenever possible. "We didn't come here to lose or draw," said Giannakopoulos. "We need a win and that is what we will get."