Olympiacos CFP's Panagiotis Lemonis insists his players will need clear heads and plenty of patience if they are to defeat S.S. Lazio in their Group C opener.
Olympiacos CFP coach Panagiotis Lemonis insists his players will need clear heads and plenty of patience if they are to overcome S.S. Lazio in Tuesday's Group C opener at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
With Olympiacos having lost opening fixtures in each of the last two seasons, Lemonis is hoping it will be third time lucky as he prepares for his first UEFA Champions League game in nearly five years, having replaced Trond Sollied this summer. "We need patience, a clear mind and good tactics," said Lemonis, who sought to distance himself from suggestions the match will decide the outcome of their entire campaign. "I read in a newspaper that the game with Lazio is a final," he said. "It may be in journalistic terms but not for us."
The Greek title-holders' poor away record – they have not won in 31 UEFA Champions League trips – has perhaps provided the catalyst for the media hype, but Lemonis is keen to look forward. "We look at each match separately and see what develops," said the 47-year-old, who believes he is better equipped than he was five years ago when he failed to get Olympiacos out of the group stages. "I am much better prepared," he continued. "Five years have passed, but what is more important is that the team is ready. It is not about me."
Luciano Galletti is a doubt for Lemonis, but captain Predrag Djordjević appears to have won his battle with a thigh injury. "Djordjević will give us presence," the coach said. "He is an important player for us. We will wait before making a decision on Galletti, though if he isn't fit we have plenty of options." They may need them against a Lazio side that finished third in Serie A last term, although the Rome outfit are taking nothing for granted in Athens with coach Delio Rossi stressing "we are not thinking about" Olympiacos's recent record.
'We can go far'
"We know they are a good team who have a history of competing in the Champions League," Rossi said. "It's a new season, a new challenge and they have many new players, so we cannot rely on what has happened in the recent past." Lazio have begun the Serie A campaign with three disappointing draws, yet they have never lost on Greek soil and the Olympiacos match will be played behind closed doors as punishment for last year's crowd disturbances during a fixture against FC Shakhtar Donetsk. "The main thing at this stage is that we go out and try to win every game," Rossi continued. "If we are united, we know we can get the points we need. If we play with passion and organisation, we can go far in the Champions League."