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Excellence needed in London

Olympiakos knows well that tonight’s challenge against the world-class English team Chelsea in London for a place in the Champions League quarterfinals will be no easy task. But the Piraeus team’s coach expressed faith in his side, believing it can rise to the occasion yet again in European competition this season. The pair played a scoreless draw in their Round of 16 first leg a fortnight ago at Karaiskaki Stadium. «We know that this will be an extremely difficult mission, but we intend to push for the best. We’ve displayed our good side in all our European games and that’s what we want to do tomorrow,» Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis told reporters at Athens airport on Monday. The Greek champions will need to improve drastically on last weekend’s lackluster 1-1 draw at home against Asteras Tripolis in the domestic league. Olympiakos lies second in the Super League, a point behind Panathinaikos. Lemonis, who said he expected a whirlwind start from star-studded Chelsea, said the game’s pace would be crucial to the outcome. «The first few minutes of play are not just competitive but also psychological. We’re prepared for a strong start and the way we will react will determine many things,» Lemonis told a news conference in London yesterday. Lemonis will be without Congolese striker Lomana LuaLua and Argentinean midfielder Luciano Galletti, both injured, but expects Greece international Vassilis Torosidis to be fit again. With John Terry and Frank Lampard back from injury, Chelsea will be at full strength. After its scoreless draw in Greece two weeks ago, Chelsea lost England’s League Cup final to Tottenham with a performance so disjointed it prompted reports that the players are unhappy with coach Avram Grant and his tactics. But Chelsea rebounded with a 4-0 Premier League win at West Ham which kept it in the title race. Chelsea is in third place, seven points behind leaders Arsenal. Grant believes his side will have to concentrate on defending well in tonight’s game. «It is important both the defense and the attack together. We cannot win if we don’t score goals, but we started the Champions League with a 1-1 draw against Rosenborg, which if that is the score tomorrow means we are out,» said Grant. »So it is important to score but keep the record of our defense.» Chelsea have only conceded two goals in the Champions League this season. Grant refused to reveal details about his formation for the game at Stamford Bridge. «Any formation or any 11 that I pick, there will be big players on the bench and there will also be big players not in the squad. This is life in a big club.»