SPORTS

Olympiakos close to berth in tight group

Olympiakos did what it needed to do Tuesday night by adding three further points to its tally with a 1-0 home win against Spaniards Deportivo La Coruna, thanks to a second-half goal from Predrag Djordjevic. But as things have turned out in Group A of the Champions League, the group-topping Greek club will not know whether it is through to the competition’s next phase of knockout home-and-away play until the final round on December 8, when it meets Liverpool at Anfield and, moreover, last year’s finalist Monaco takes on Deportivo La Coruna in Spain. Besides Deportivo, already eliminated, the group’s other three entrants, separated by three points, are all in contention. Leader Olympiakos has amassed 10 points, Monaco is a point behind, and Liverpool is on seven points. The trio will be pushing for the group’s top two places and qualification as the reward. Should Olympiakos either win or draw at Anfield, the Greek club will advance, no matter what. A loss against the English club, which would tie the two clubs on 10 points apiece, brings more factors into the picture, including second-placed Monaco’s result in Spain. A Liverpool victory and a Monaco loss would get Olympiakos and the English side through. Victories by Liverpool and Monaco would provide the latter with its berth, while the Greek and English clubs would be locked in second place with 10 points apiece. Here, the aggregate score of their two face-to-face group encounters would be the first of several factors applied to break the deadlock. Olympiakos holds a slim 1-0 advantage from their first encounter in Athens. The succession of factors considered, until the deadlock is broken, includes the number of yellow cards per team this Champions League season. The stickiest of all scenarios would emerge from a Liverpool win against Olympiakos and a Monaco draw in Spain. All three contenders would be tied on 10 points. «I didn’t want it to come down to a final match against Liverpool,» said Olympiakos coach Dusan Bajevic. «It adds a lot to the stress factor but if we are to progress in the tournament then we have to play knockout. So this match against Liverpool is just like playing knockout,» he added. «I don’t know who will get through because this group has been so close throughout,» said Deportivo coach Javier Irureta, whose side are out of European competition as they cannot now claim third place, which brings a consolation UEFA Cup third-round spot. «The game in La Coruna will be like a final,» said Monaco midfielder Diego Perez. Irureta said Deportivo’s supporters deserved a rousing finale after a disappointing campaign. «I don’t know how we will play against Monaco but we owe it to our fans to give them something to cheer,» Irureta said. Last season, Monaco humiliated Deportivo 8-3 in the group phase at their Stade Louis-II. Coach Didier Deschamps made it clear Monaco has to go for all three points to avoid disappointment. «With Olympiakos beating La Coruna, we now have to win in Spain,» he said on Tuesday. Summing up the complex situation, Bajevic joked: «If you can tell me the result of the Monaco-Deportivo match then I will tell you how we will play against Liverpool. What I can tell you is that we will not be going to get a goalless draw. That is not our style.»  (Kathimerini, Reuters)