Olympiacos CFP go into their tie against Chelsea FC aided by a coach who has been schooled in the arts of English football, the FA-educated Panagiotis Lemonis.
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Panagiotis Lemonis will not want his Olympiacos CFP team standing on ceremony against Chelsea FC – but he will be full of respect for the English opposition nonetheless, having studied coaching with the Football Association.
Pride and passion
The Olympiacos coach reveals on his CV that he spent a season in England earlier in his career, learning his trade under the aegis of the FA. The 48-year-old arguably has his Greek title-holders playing the English way with pride, passion and fierce determination – attributes which the home fans can expect to see in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League tie at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
The English way
"I have always been a fan of the English approach to football," Lemonis told uefa.com. "You might not be thrilled with the quality of the football all the time, but you have to admire the fact there are no favourites on the field. Every team fights for victory and, for me, that's brilliant. The level of commitment of the players on the pitch is amazing. The only thing that bothers me is if my players play without passion, fight or determination."
These are qualities Chelsea certainly do not lack. Since Avram Grant replaced José Mourinho in September, the London club have lost just twice in all competitions, displaying a strength of character during some injury-troubled times that has impressed Lemonis. "Chelsea were a team created from the start by Mourinho and most of the players had a special bond with the Portuguese coach," he said. "However, they are great professionals and members of a big club and it's only natural they would continue to do their job to the best of their ability. Under Grant, there is a certain difference in the tactics, but results suggest the team remain very strong.
"Chelsea are not the most spectacular side in Europe, truth be told, but they are strong in every area and very tough to beat. At home, they have an unbelievable unbeaten record. They are very compact, excellent in defence and lethal in attack, and don't need many chances to score – their ratio of chances to goals is very high. In matches like these, you have to keep errors to a minimum. Our prospects will depend a lot on how we play defensively, just like in our previous games in the competition. Chelsea are favourites in this tie, of course, but we are determined to put up a fight."
Going into this first knockout round contest, Olympiacos have lost all seven competitive games they have played in England, scoring once and conceding 24 times. It is a record that should focus minds ahead of Tuesday's first leg. "It would be great for us if we didn't have to play the second leg in England," Lemonis said. "But joking aside, all negative streaks in football can be broken. We won't be thinking about our bad results there. This is the first time we will face Chelsea and we hope to prove we have a strong, competitive side. When the knockout phase is over for us, it will be important to know we have done our best and given everything we could on the pitch."