Barcelona v Olympiakos: Preview

  • PA Sport
  • October 17, 2017

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said his players would not be affected if home fans choose to protest during Wednesday's Champions League game against Olympiacos.

Valverde's side will take a big step towards qualifying for the knock-out stages with a third straight Group D win, while the game will be Barca's first at the Nou Camp since the vote for independence in Catalonia sparked violent scenes across the region.

Barca's last home game against Las Palmas on October 1 was played behind closed doors after the club's request to postpone it was turned down amid widespread political unrest.

``People come here to watch the game, to have fun,'' Valverde told a press conference, published on the club's official website.

``Hopefully (Wednesday) will be just the same. But if people do want to express themselves in any way, that won't affect us.''

Barca's nine-game winning start to the season in all competitions was halted by a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid on Saturday, but they are overwhelming favourites against Olympiacos after previous Group D victories against Juventus and Sporting Lisbon.

Valverde has one eye on this weekend's LaLiga game against Malaga and could make several changes.

``It's an important game for us, but the Malaga one is too. So we'll use the players that are essential to win it,'' he said.

``I agree that the players were very tired after the Atletico game because they'd just got back from a very intensive international break, but we have had four days to recover.''

Valverde is looking forward to an emotional reunion with the Greek champions having had two highly successful spells in charge of the club and is revered by their fans.

He won a domestic league and cup double in his first season in Praeus and returned to win the Greek title again in his second spell.

``I don't know why the Olympiacos fans like me so much,'' he added. ``But we did win a lot of trophies.

``The feeling is mutual because the Greek people always treated me very well. I say that because I left a large part of my heart there.''

Greek champions Olympiacos, beaten by both Sporting Lisbon and Juventus in their opening two group matches, are struggling in fifth place in their domestic table.

Saturday's win at Panionios was their first in five league games, but coach Takis Lemonis, in his fourth spell in charge after being appointed in September, feels his side can give a good account of themselves.

``I think we have a team to enter the stadium and say 'we are here','' he told a press conference. ``In this job you always dream.

``You always want big wins, great results for your team. What I want is to go to the stadium and show that we are a good team.''

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