Home record must improve

Olympiakos will need to drastically improve on its recent home record in Europe if the Greek champion is to stand a chance in tonight’s Champions League Group D match against visiting AS Roma. The Greek club, on just one point from its first two games, has lost four of its last five home games in the Champions League, the most recent being this season’s opening game in the competition, a 4-2 loss against group frontrunner Valencia. Considering the Greek club’s woeful away record in the Champions League, victory is absolutely necessary tonight if Olympiakos is to stand a chance of reaching the competition’s next stage. The Greek team remains without an away win in this European club-level competition following 29 attempts. The Italians, second in the group – three points behind Valencia with three points from their two matches played – will be without four key players. Midfielder David Pizarro has flown back to Chile for personal reasons while Brazilian winger Mancini, French defender Philippe Mexes and striker Vincenzo Montella are all injured. Mancini strained a thigh muscle and Montella suffered a groin strain in Sunday’s 1-0 Serie A defeat at Reggina – a loss which cost Roma first place in Italy’s top division. Mexes missed the Reggina match due to a right calf strain and is still short of match fitness. At a news conference yesterday, Olympikaos coach Trond Sollied described tonight’s game as the club’s most crucial until now. «We know that all will be possible with a good result tonight,» said Sollied. «Roma is a great club. Their defeat [last Sunday in the Serie A] doesn’t mean anything because – for them, too – the Champions League is totally different to the Italian league,» Sollied added. In Group D’s other game, also tonight, Valencia are confident they will chalk up their third consecutive victory in the Champions League when they host Shakhtar Donetsk. Quique Sanchez Flores’s side have enjoyed a positive start to the season and although they lost 3-2 at Celta Vigo in the Primera Liga on Sunday the team are second in the standings. Sanchez Flores reckoned it was only natural that Valencia should be favorites to beat Shakhtar after wins over Olympiakos and Roma. However, he warned his players to show maximum respect for their rivals – something that may have been missing in Vigo. «We have the skills necessary to be the better team. In our last game we were overconfident and didn’t work hard enough. We must recover these attributes against Shakhtar,» Sanchez Flores said. «We need to return to playing in a tight, disciplined manner so that the match cannot be decided by a chance moment. Our primary objective is to qualify for the second round, but after that it is to finish top of the group. That will be easier to achieve if we earn a third win in three games.» (AFP, Reuters, Kathimerini)