Olympiacos CFP have little but pride to play for as they tackle a Real Madrid CF side who travelled with a new coach but without most of their star names.
The Greek champions were minutes away from making the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds 12 months ago, only for Liverpool FC to complete an unlikely comeback which provided the impetus for a charge that would end in glory in Istanbul. Olympiacos finished that group stage campaign with ten points, yet can do no better than four this time around. "It's our last match in the group and I hope the end will be better than the beginning," said coach Trond Sollied.
The Norwegian believes his team have been "haunted" by their opening 3-1 defeat by Rosenborg BK in Athens and the subsequent late loss in Madrid when Roberto Soldado struck an 86th-minute winner. "No one can claim we've been a lucky team this season," continued the coach. "Yet we will do our best to win this game, as we have done all our other matches, and are highly motivated to do so."
Olympiacos beat Egaleo FC 3-1 on Saturday to maintain their one-point advantage over AEK Athens FC at the Greek summit. Sollied has hinted at changes to his lineup as he looks for a rousing finale to this miserably short European campaign. "I may use some players who haven't been called on recently," he said, while Juan Ramón López Caro's first selection as Madrid's sixth coach in five years will definitely be missing some familiar and famous faces.
López Caro was named Vanderlei Luxemburgo's temporary replacement on Monday with the Brazilian's tenure at the Santiago Bernabéu having ended the previous day despite Saturday's 1-0 home win against Getafe CF. With second place in the pool behind Olympique Lyonnais secured, Madrid left the Spanish capital for the Greek one without goalkeeper Iker Casillas, three first-choice defenders, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, captain Raúl González and Ronaldo.
López Caro's first significant act in his new role was to face the press at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium on Monday evening. "I'm not used to speaking in front of such a crowd and speaking at press conferences is not one of my strengths. However, I hope to do well as a coach and to be judged on my results," said the 42-year-old, who expressed his "enormous joy" at being handed a "great opportunity".
The caretaker revealed he had had no contact with Luxemburgo ahead of the flight to Athens. "We did not have an opportunity to talk after the decision was taken on Sunday," he said, before turning towards Tuesday's match. "Our aim is to win and play good football, although Olympiacos are a prestigious club who were difficult to beat in Madrid."
Madrid have never tasted success on Greek soil in the UEFA Champions League, a statistic they will, in the words of López Caro, be "doing our best to change". Forward Julio Baptista has every faith in his new coach and in his team-mates. "If Caro can convey his philosophy to the players, the results will follow and he will go down as a great coach," said the Brazilian. "As a team, we know we can still achieve a lot this season."