Olympiacos CFP need only a point to secure progress to the last 16 for the first time in nine years but they can expect tough resistance from Werder Bremen.
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Olympiacos CFP stand on the threshold of the UEFA Champions League last 16, requiring just a point from their Matchday 6 meeting with Werder Bremen – their 100th match in the competition – to secure qualification. However, they can expect fierce resistance from the visitors who can qualify themselves with victory at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
• Olympiacos go into the game in second place in Group C, level on eight points with leaders Real Madrid CF, while Bremen lie two points behind in third place.
• For the Greek champions, progress to the first knockout round would be a major cause for celebration. Not since 1998/99, when they were quarter-finalists, have they got beyond the initial group stage and the irony of their present situation is that their away form – so often their achilles heel in Europe – has been the key to their success.
• Olympiacos had not recorded a single away win in 31 attempts in the UEFA Champions League prior to this season yet their 2-1 victory at S.S. Lazio on Matchday 5 was their second in three matches on the road.
• Olympiacos came from behind to win 2-1 in Rome, goals from Luciano Galletti (35 minutes) and Darko Kovačević (64) overturning Goran Pandev's opener.
• That victory followed a hoodoo-ending 3-1 success in Germany on Matchday 2, when Panagiotis Lemonis's team also overcame a deficit to win. After Hugo Almeida had given Bremen a 32nd-minute lead, strikes from Ieroklis Stoltidis (73), Christos Patsatzoglou (82) and Kovačević (87) turned the game on its head.
• By contrast, Olympiacos have not won at home yet, drawing with both Lazio (1-1) and Madrid (0-0). Indeed, their last home victory in the UEFA Champions League was on 6 December 2005 when they beat Madrid 2-1. It was also against the Spanish champions that they registered their solitary defeat in this year's competition, 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabéu.
• Bremen revived their hopes by beating Madrid 3-2 on Matchday 5. Markus Rosenberg gave the Bundesliga side a fourth-minute lead and although Robinho levelled for the visitors (14), further goals from Boubacar Sanogo (40) and Aaron Hunt (56) ensured that Ruud van Nistelrooy's 71st-minute effort had no effect on the final outcome.
• Prior to that, coach Thomas Schaaf's team had recorded away defeats against Madrid (1-2) and Lazio (1-2) in addition to losing to Olympiacos at the Weserstadion. The only shaft of light had come from a 2-1 home success over Lazio on Matchday 3, where Sanogo and Hugo Almeida found the net.
• This is Bremen's fourth consecutive season in the UEFA Champions League and they are aiming to reach the last 16 for the third time. They advanced previously in the 2004/05 and 2005/06 campaigns before losing in the first knockout round on both occasions.
• Olympiacos's past encounters with German opposition on Greek soil have produced one win and two defeats. They lost home ties in the European Champion Clubs' Cup to FC Bayern München (2-4) in 1980 and Hamburger SV (0-4) in 1982 – the second match of which coach Lemonis featured in the home midfield.
• Lemonis, then in his first spell as coach, was in charge when they beat Bayer 04 Leverkusen 6-2 in the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2002/03. Predrag Djordjević scored a hat-trick in that match and two other current squad members, Patsatzoglou and Paraskevas Antzas, also played.
• Bremen lost 2-1 at Panathinaikos FC in the 2005/06 group stage on their only previous visit to Greece. A more positive omen may be found in the fact they subsequently beat Panathinaikos 5-1 in their final group fixture to reach the knockout stage – then, as now, despite having suffered three reverses.
• Bremen are not the only team to have advanced from the group stage despite three defeats. Celtic (2007/08 and 2006/07), FC Lokomotiv Moskva, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Newcastle United FC (2002/03), Arsenal FC (2001/02), Olympique Lyonnais (2000/01), Manchester United FC and Rosenborg BK (1996/97), and Legia Warszawa (1995/96) all achieved the feat.
• In 2005/06, Bremen qualified despite losing their first two games. The only other clubs to have come back in this way are FC Internazionale Milano (2006/07), Leverkusen and Newcastle (2002/03).
• Petri Pasanen, Bremen's Finnish defender played alongside Olympiacos forward Lomana LuaLua at Portsmouth FC in the second half of the 2003/04 season, after the pair had both arrived at the Premier League club on loan.
• Two of Serbian club FK Proleter's favourite sons will be on opposing sides in Piraeus. Olympiacos striker Kovačević spent two years with the Zrenjanin side – now FK Banat Zrenjanin – between 1992 and 1994 before joining FK Crvena Zvezda. Bremen defender Duško Tošić, meanwhile, was plucked from the youth ranks at the same club by OFK Beograd in 2002.