PIRAEUS, Feb 25 — Olympiakos coach Michel says that his side will prey on any vulnerability in Manchester United’s ranks when the teams meet in today’s Champions League last 16 first-leg match in Piraeus.
United’s domestic struggles mean that they may need to win this season’s Champions League in order to qualify for next season’s competition, as they currently trail fourth-place Liverpool by 11 points in the league.
Olympiakos have lost all of their four previous games against United, but with David Moyes’s side in disarray, Michel says that the Greek champions are determined to seize their chance.
“We do know the state of Manchester United and we know the type of team we’re facing,” the former Real Madrid midfielder said during yesterday’s pre-game press conference.
“There is a dual interpretation, because we know there’s lots at stake for Manchester United in this match.
“We know Manchester United are not allowed to make any mistakes tomorrow due to their position in the English Premier League and this kind of situation may weigh too much on their players’ shoulders.
“But we do not know if this position in the table will be an incentive to them or a burden on their shoulders.”
United have won only four of their 11 games to date in 2014, although they bucked the trend with a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Olympiakos have enjoyed two victories over Arsenal in the past two seasons, but for all United’s recent woes, captain Giannis Maniatis says that the English champions must not be underestimated.
“This year, we know that Arsenal are having a great campaign and Manchester United are not doing so well,” he said.
“However, although there were a lot of people after the draw saying that Manchester United will be easier to beat, they’re a huge, historic club and they know how to win these matches.
“We’ll have to shut our ears, be fully concentrated for 90 minutes, and look them straight in the eye, just like we did against Paris Saint-Germain (in the group phase).
“We have to respect them, but not be afraid of them.”
Part of Olympiakos’s Karaiskakis Stadium will be closed for the match as a punishment for the conduct of their supporters during their 3-1 group-stage victory at home to Anderlecht in December.
European governing body UEFA handed down the sanction for “the racist conduct of supporters, insufficient organisation, the setting-off of fireworks and the use of a laser” during the Group C encounter.
“If you break the rules you have to pay, and we have to pay for that,” said Michel.
“We hope it’ll be a lesson not just for us, but for everyone in football, to show that you shouldn’t bring non-football things into a football match.
“Of course, we’d rather have all our fans tomorrow night, which would mean we’d made no mistakes and would have more people cheering for us, but it shows we have respect for the rules.”
Michel will be without experienced Argentine striker Javier Saviola due to a thigh injury, with 21-year-old Nigerian forward Michael Olaitan expected to lead the line in his absence. — AFP