Olympiakos looking for greater impact

Olympiakos and Norwegian club Rosenborg, which clash in tonight’s opening round of Champions League group play, can both recall unpleasant memories from the last time they met in the competition, seven seasons ago. Greeted by Rosenborg in Trondheim on the first day of October back in 1997, Olympiakos suffered one of its heaviest defeats in its European club-level history, 5-1. Seventy days later, when the two sides met again here, a 2-2 draw deprived Rosenborg of a Champions League quarterfinal place. The Norwegians may possibly have had that bitter night in mind last season, when they inflicted damage on another Greek club, Panathinaikos. Playing in freezing Norwegian conditions, the Athens club was held to a 2-2 draw that eliminated it from the competition. Two second-half goals from Thorstein Helstad sent Arseanal and PSV Eindhoven into the knockout rounds instead. Fed up by its lack of success in Europe despite winning eight out of the last nine Greek league titles, Olympiakos is keen to make further impact this year. Despite accumulating 10 points in group play last season, from three home wins – including one against the competition’s champion Liverpool – and an away draw, Olympiakos narrowly missed out on a quarterfinal berth. A 3-1 away loss against Liverpool in the final round of group play sent the English club through instead. Olympiakos, which led 1-0 at halftime, would have made it through with a 2-1 loss. The Greek club’s European narrow Champions League misfortune prompted the departure of coach Dusan Bajevic at the end of last season, despite a domestic league-and-cup double. Bajevic, one of the country’s most successful coaches, with scores of Greek titles at Olympiakos, AEK and PAOK, was replaced by Norwegian Trond Sollied, formerly of Brugge, who had been mentioned as a candidate for the coaching job at Panathinaikos earlier last season. Olympiakos goes into tonight’s encounter with two wins from two games in the Greek league, including an impressive 5-0 win against Panionios last Saturday that led to the sacking of its recently hired Czech coach, Josef Csaplar. The 43-year-old Csaplar has coached Panionios since June. Panionios drew 1-1 at home against newcomer Larissa in the opening round of the Greek first division and is in 13th place in the 16-team standings. Olympiakos and Rosenborg have been drawn into the lucrative competition’s Group F along with French champions Lyon and Spanish giants Real Madrid, which meet in the group’s other game tonight. Lyon’s Norwegian striker John Carew warned that the French champions have what it takes to defeat Real Madrid. It is the first time that the four-time French champions have met Real in 120 European matches played. And while the duel does not look like one of equals, with Lyon’s annual budget about half that of Real’s 300 million euros, new arrival Carew is confident they can get a result. Carew, who spent three years with Valencia in Spain before heading for AS Roma and Turkish side Besiktas, believes that they can pick holes in the Real defense and set themselves up in Group F. «It’s their weak point,» he said of Real’s defense. «We have a chance to surprise them in this match. We have to show straight away who is the boss, and if we play at our top level we can beat them. I want to show that I play in a good team and that the Spaniards are wrong to think that French football is no good.» Lyon are riding high in the French league, unbeaten in their opening six matches and boosted by a 2-1 win against Monaco at the weekend. Real Madrid by contrast have played just two Primera Liga games and will be looking to bounce back from their 3-2 home defeat by Celta Vigo on Saturday. (Kathimerini, AFP)