Olympiakos fans light and throw flares during a Greek Super League match against Panathinaikos at Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus on November 29, 2009. Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP
Olympiakos fans light and throw flares during a Greek Super League match against Panathinaikos at Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus on November 29, 2009. Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP

Greek champions Olympiakos smell English blood


author image

The elderly Olympiakos fan selling newspapers outside the Piraeus railway station asked a younger man to translate from Greek into English.

Against a backdrop of ships lined up to leave Europe’s largest passenger port under leaden skies and even darker economic times, the young man explained: “Now is the time of Olympiakos to beat Manchester. Olympiakos very strong. Manchester weak. Now we play you at our home.”

Monday’s sport newspapers in the man’s kiosk only had one story on their front page, Tuesday night’s Uefa Champions League last-16 first leg between Greek champions Olympiakos and Manchester United.

The pair met four times in the 1990s and United even wore blue at Old Trafford to avoid a clash of kits in one game. The Reds wearing blue were comfortable: United won all four matches against Greece’s most successful and powerful team of recent times, while Olympiakos scored in only one of those games.

The two ties in Greece were not played in Piraeus, the bustling port city linked intrinsically to Athens for millennia. Olympiakos played one game at the Olympic Stadium, another at the tiny ground of Apollon as the Olympic Stadium was being readied for the 2004 Summer Games.

Now, Olympiakos have their own home back in Pireaus, the modern 32,000-capacity bowl of the Karaiskakis Stadium, with an atmosphere rated as one of the best in European football. Although that figure will be reduced by 2,000 as punishment after a racist banner was unfurled during Olympiakos’ victory over Anderlecht in December.

Those fans smell blood. The English champions have never lost to a Greek side, having won eight and drawn two of their 10 ties. But those were all against Sir Alex Ferguson’s United, not a David Moyes team struggling in transition. United have seen long-standing unbeaten records toppled by several clubs this season.

Michel’s side are seeking a first quarter-final appearance since 1999, the year United won the treble. They have won the Greek title in 15 of the past 17 seasons and 24 of their 26 league games this campaign, yet it is a huge game for United, since it represents their only realistic chance of a trophy this term.

United’s poor season has emboldened the hopes of Olympiakos, but their form in Europe has been impressive.

Along with both Madrid giants – Atletico and Real – United are the only other team who are unbeaten in the Champions League so far.

After being eliminated by Real Madrid at the same stage a year ago, United were satisfied with this year’s draw, with coach Phil Neville saying: “It gives us a great opportunity to progress. If we take our form from the first group stage into the knock-out stage, then we have as good a chance as anyone of progressing.”

Striker Robin van Persie told Champions magazine: “Only one team can win it, and it’s very hard. It’s a trophy many players don’t win; once, if you’re very lucky.

“You have a couple of players who’ve won it more than once, but it’s a very special trophy everyone wants to win every year. It seems to get harder every year to win it, because the teams are getting better and better. So it’s always hard if you want something everyone wants.”

United, who will be supported by 2,000 followers of their own, have injury doubts involving several players: Marouane Fellaini, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Nani, Rafael da Silva and Danny Welbeck, while Olympiakos could be without Jose Holebas and Nelson Valdez, the on-loan Al Jazira striker.

They also sold Kostas Mitroglou, their leading goalscorer, to Fulham in the January transfer window.

Not that his departure affected the mood of the newspaper seller or his translator, who were in no doubt that Olympiakos are ready.

sports@thenational.ae

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian
Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).


Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).


Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming
Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics
Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

THE SPECS

Engine: AMG-enhanced 3.0L inline-6 turbo with EQ Boost and electric auxiliary compressor

Transmission: nine-speed automatic

Power: 429hp

Torque: 520Nm​​​​​​​

Price: Dh360,200 (starting)

Profile Box

Company/date started: 2015

Founder/CEO: Mohammed Toraif

Based: Manama, Bahrain

Sector: Sales, Technology, Conservation

Size: (employees/revenue) 4/ 5,000 downloads

Stage: 1 ($100,000)

Investors: Two first-round investors including, 500 Startups, Fawaz Al Gosaibi Holding (Saudi Arabia)

Results

2.30pm Maiden (PA) Dh40,000 1,200m

Winner Lamia, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel.

3pm Handicap (PA) Dh40,000 1,000m

Winner Jap Al Afreet, Elione Chaves, Irfan Ellahi.

3.30pm Handicap (PA) Dh40,000 1,700m

Winner MH Tawag, Bernardo Pinheiro, Elise Jeanne.

4pm Handicap (TB) Dh40,000 2,000m

Winner Skygazer, Sandro Paiva, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

4.30pm The Ruler of Sharjah Cup Prestige (PA) Dh250,000 1,700m

Winner AF Kal Noor, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel.

5pm Sharjah Marathon (PA) Dh70,000 2,700m

Winner RB Grynade, Bernardo Pinheiro, Eric Lemartinel.

ESSENTIALS

The flights 
Fly Etihad or Emirates from the UAE to Moscow from 2,763 return per person return including taxes. 
Where to stay 
Trips on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian cost from US$16,995 (Dh62,414) per person, based on two sharing.

The specs

Engine: 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Power: 410hp
Torque: 495Nm
Price: starts from Dh495,000 (Dh610,000 for the F-Sport launch edition tested)
On sale: now

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

The specs

Engine: 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo

Transmission: CVT

Power: 170bhp

Torque: 220Nm

Price: Dh98,900

WORLD CUP SEMI-FINALS

England v New Zealand

(Saturday, 12pm UAE)

Wales v South Africa

(Sunday, 12pm, UAE)

 

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside


Latest
Most Read
Top Videos