New big challenge lies ahead

Just one day after Wednesday night’s triumphant qualification to the Champions League’s Round of 16 with a 3-0 win over Werder Bremen, Olympiakos got news yesterday of another major challenge, a Greek Cup tie against domestic archrival Panathinaikos for a quarterfinal berth. The encounter, to be played either January 9 or 16, adds to the Piraeus club’s heavy schedule of late, which includes a clash against league front-runner AEK, three points ahead of Olymp-iakos, this Sunday. Olympiakos’s win over Werder put the Greek team through to the Champions League’s next stage for the first time in nine seasons. The Piraeus team ended its six Group C games with 11 points, as did Real Madrid, a 3-1 winner over Lazio. Real Madrid was handed top spot because of its better head-to-head record against Olympiakos. As runner-up, Olympiakos will be drawn against one of the winners of seven of the competition’s eight groups. Having already met Real Madrid in group play, Olympiakos will not play the Spanish giant in the next stage, when home-and-away knockout affairs will begin. But there is a list of other powerhouse clubs that stand as obstacles to a quarterfinal spot. On the day of the draw, Friday week, Olympiakos will get Porto, Chelsea, Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United, Inter or Sevilla as its opponent in the Round of 16. «I haven’t had a chance to think about which team I would prefer. Whatever team you get at this level will be very good,» said Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis. He described his team’s win over Werder Bremen as «one of the most important results in the history of Olympiakos. Not because of the result but because of the way my players went for the victory when a draw was enough.» The Greek team’s coach added that his team had «changed attitude, they are now psychologically strong and it shows.» Returning to the Greek Cup’s Round of 16, the other ties are: Thrasyvoulos-Preveza, Ethnikos Katerini-Aris, Apollon Kalamaria-Larissa, Asteras Tripoli-Atromitos, Agrotikos Asteras-OFI, Xanthi-AEK, and Iraklis-Panionios. Should any of these encounters end in draws, they will be repeated with the first game’s visitor as host. If these games fail to produce a winner, extra time will be added, and, if still deadlocked, they will be decided by penalty shootouts.