SPORTS

AEK, Olympiakos will miss their injured players

Two more Greek teams begin their Champions League group matches today, with AEK hosting Deportivo La Coruna and Olympiakos playing away at Real Sociedad. AEK hopes some of the Greek national side’s form against Spanish opponents will rub off on it when they it hosts Deportivo in a Champions League Group C opener today. Greece beat Spain 1-0 away in a stunning Euro 2004 qualifying win in June and now needs only a home victory over winless Northern Ireland to be sure of reaching the finals as Group 6 winners. «Greece handed Spain a real upset and we have to take that into account,» Deportivo coach Javier Irureta said yesterday. «We will be going out there looking for victory, though.» AEK has injury headaches with Grigoris Georgatos a big doubt. The former Inter Milan left back has missed training with an ankle problem and joins long-term absentees Michalis Kasapis and Kofi Amponsah on the sidelines. But coach Dusan Bajevic, who will also have to wait for a last-minute fitness test on combative defender Michalis Kapsis and forward Christos Maladenis, is confident. «A serious AEK has nothing to fear from any team in Europe. If we play to our abilities, the results will come,» he told local media. After last season’s unbeaten campaign of six draws, including two with Real Madrid, the Serb coach called for a more ruthless approach from his side this term. Deportivo has lost its Dutch striker Roy Makaay, sold to Bayern Munich after ending last season as the Spanish first division’s top scorer, but the club still has plenty of firepower. Walter Pandiani, the Uruguayan forward recalled from a loan spell at Real Mallorca to help replace Makaay, came off the bench to score in each of Deportivo’s first two league games of the season. He was rewarded with a place in the starting lineup on Saturday and scored again in a 2-1 win over Sevilla. Irureta is likely to stick with the unheralded 27-year-old in a solo role up front. Diego Tristan was the man to make way for Pandiani against Sevilla and the Spanish international responded by scoring his first goal of the season for Deportivo after coming on as a substitute. He will expect to play at some stage against AEK. Deportivo has made a sure-footed start to the season, winning all three of its league games so far to top the table as the only team with a 100 percent record. Olympiakos has its own injury problems, missing center-back Paraskevas Antzas after he picked up a groin strain during Saturday’s surprise defeat at Proodeftiki. On the other hand, Real Sociedad will likely miss Turkish forward Nihat Kahveci. The good news for coach Oleg Protasof is the return to fitness of injury prone striker Lambros Houtos, who is back after a two-match layoff. Whether or not Kahveci recovers in time for Sociedad, Protasof expects a difficult game from the Spaniards and he has told his players to forget their weekend league defeat and focus on Europe. «We need to put (the league defeat) behind us,» he said. «We need to be disciplined and tight in defense but we also need to chase the game up front in order to get a result.» (Reuters)