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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Champions League Round Of 16 Preview - Chelsea Vs Olympiakos



The Blues are in the midst of a sequence of four successive games in four different competitions - Carling Cup, Premier League, Champions League and, next weekend, FA Cup quarter-final against Championship side Barnsley, so Grant is having to pick and choose players for each match in an attempt to get the best out of his squad.Lampard's red card at the weekend will not affect his participation against Olympiakos, but Michael Essien is one card away from a suspension in this competition.Andriy Shevchenko's back injury has kept him out of most of the action since Christmas, but although fit again he was obliged to play for the reserves against Reading on Monday night. His performance was described by the Chelsea website as 'low key' as the Blues' second-string lost 2-1.Otherwise, Grant should have a more or less full complement of players from which to select his starting eleven on Wednesday.

Last Starting XI (v West Ham): Čech, Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, A. Cole, Ballack, Makelele (Alex 84), Lampard, Kalou (Malouda 75), Anelka, J. Cole (Essien 69)

Squad Named For Champions League Matches

Goalkeepers - 1 Petr Cech, 23 Carlo Cudicini, 40 Hilário

Defenders - 3 Ashley Cole, 6 Ricardo Carvalho, 18 Wayne Bridge, 20 Paulo Ferreira, 22 Tal Ben Haim, 26 John Terry, 33 Alex, 35 Juliano Belletti, 41 Sam Hutchinson

Midfielders - 4 Claude Makelele, 5 Michael Essien, 8 Frank Lampard, 10 Joe Cole, 12 John Obi Mikel, 13 Michael Ballack, 15 Florent Malouda, 24 Shaun Wright-Phillips. 42 Lee Sawyer

Forwards - 7 Andriy Shevchenko, 11 Didier Drogba, 21 Salomon Kalou, 39 Nicolas Anelka.


Lemonis has to contend with a number of injuries within his squad. Lomana LuaLua came back from a foot injury at the weekend, only to dislocate his shoulder and be ruled out for six more weeks. Luciano Galletti (thigh), Vassilis Torosidis (knee), Raúl Bravo (achilles) and Didier Domi (thigh) are all still out, but Michalis Konstantinou, who had been out with a groin problem, returned a week ago, while Cristián Raúl Ledesma was back at the weekend following a thigh injury.

Last Starting XI (v Asteras Tripolis): Sifakis, Leonardo (M Konstantinou 85), Júlio César, Pantos, Żewłakow, Stoltidis, Mendrinos (Belluschi 69), Ledesma (Šišić 56), P. Djordjević, Kovačević, LuaLua.

Squad Named For Champions League Matches

Goalkeepers - 1 Leonidas Panagopoulos, 71 Antonios Nikopolidis, 87 Michalis Sifakis

Defenders - 2 Christos Patsatzoglou, 3 Didier Domi, 4 Leonardo, 5 Júlio César, 14 Michal Zewlakow, 15 Raúl Bravo, 18 Paraskevas Antzas, 30 Anastasios Pantos, 5 Vassilis Torosidis

Midfielders - 6 Ieroklis Stoltidis, 11 Predrag Djordjevic, 19 Konstantinos Mendrinos, 22 Konstantinos Mitroglou, 25 Fernando Belluschi, 28 Cristián Raúl Ledesma, 77 Mirnes Šišic

Forwards - 7 Luciano Galletti, 9 Darko Kovacevic, 10 Leonel Núñez, 20 Lefteris Matsoukas, 23 Michalis Konstantinou, 32 Lomana LuaLua.


Chelsea Petr Cech: Undoubtedly one of the world's top goalkeepers, Cech is normally the epitome of reliability, but high profile errors against Arsenal in the Premier League and Tottenham in the Carling Cup final led to goals for Chelsea's opponents, who won both games. However, the Czech Republic international, who recovered from a depressed fracture of the skull last season and has worn a protective head guard ever since, looked back to his best against West Ham at the weekend, and will be determined to preserve Chelsea's superb defensive record in this competition by keeping another clean-sheet., mindful that Olympiakos must score to win.

Olympiakos Antonios Nikopolidis: Cech's counterpart in the Olympiakos side, Nikopolidis is set to become the Greek footballer with the most Uefa Champions League appearances to his name. Wednesday should see him play his 53rd game in the competition. He has featured in all seven of his team's games this season, and been on the pitch for all 630 minutes. Since joining the club in the summer of 2004, Nikopolidis he has missed just five Super League matches. Against PAOK on 23rd February, his save from Sérgio Conceição's penalty made him only the second Olympiakos goalkeeper to save three successive penalties in one season. Nikopolidis, 36, has now saved seven spot-kicks in his Olympiakos career, equalling a record set by Savas Tsanaktsis in the 1961-62 season.

PREDICTION - Olympiakos are an altogether tougher prospect in the Champions League this season, particularly away from home, and Lemonis's side can be expected to give Chelsea a stern examination at Stamford Bridge. But the Blues boast a formidable home record, and are particularly keen to shove the accusation that they have 'bottled it' in the big matches this season back down their critics' throats. With a full squad eager to prove a point and maintain the treble quest, Chelsea should win.

Chelsea 2-0 Olympiakos