Olympiakos handed tough draw in Champions League

Greek league champions Olympiakos were drawn against formidable competition – Real Madrid, Werder Bremen and Lazio – in Group C of the Champions League at last night’s draw in Monaco. The Piraeus club, which has repeatedly failed to translate its domestic dominance to Europe’s premier club-level competition, will need to produce its absolute best and hope for a few somber nights for its Spanish, German and Italian group rivals for a chance of advancing to the next stage. Olympiakos’s lack of progress or success in Europe, despite the club’s domestic league triumphs in 10 of the past 11 seasons, has kept fans disgruntled and led to numerous coaching changes over the past decade or so. Judging by the club’s past, coach Takis Lemonis, hired for his second coaching term at Olympiakos during the previous season as a replacement for Norwegian Trond Sollied, will need to accumulate a respectable number of points in Group C to keep his job at the ambitious, yet frustrated, Greek club. Olympiakos plays its first game at home against Lazio on September 18. The Piraeus team then meets Werder Bremen in Germany in October 3, and completes the first half of its group games against Real Madrid in Spain on October 24. Should AEK get through its qualifier against Sevilla – the Athens club lost 2-0, away, in the first leg – it will open its campaign in London on September 19 against Arsenal before hosting two successive games, against Slavia Prague on October 2 and Steaua Bucharest on October 23 for its first half of play in Group H. AEK’s return leg against Sevilla in Athens was rescheduled for this Monday after the Spanish club requested the game’s postponement because of the death of its 22-year-old international Antonio Puerta last Tuesday. He died of a heart attack. Puerta collapsed in a weekend game and fell into a coma for several days.