Maccabi Haifa's first home game in the Champions League on September 24 against Olympiakos will be a very unsettling occasion for the "hosts," according to Cypriot player Sinisa Gogic.
Gogic, now 39, is a well-known nemesis of Israel, having given defenses a miserable time whenever he played for Cyprus. The Serbian-born player also played for Olympiakos for three seasons, 1997-2000, and was a leading player for the Greek club. He even scored a goal against Juventus in a Champions League encounter.
"The whole of Cyprus is waiting for the game. To see Olympiakos play here in an official fixture is something which a stranger would not understand. The whole of Nicosia is talking about the game," Gogic said in an interview in the Greek media this week.
"Olympiakos is undoubtedly the most popular team in Cyprus and the fact that the team will play a home fixture on the island is driving people crazy. Everybody wants to know when the tickets will go on sale and how many will be made available. People are very worried that any tickets will be snapped up within hours," Gogic said.
Gogic, who today plays for Olympiakos Nicosia, promises that his team's Greek namesake will have a majority of fans in the 25,000-seat GSP stadium although formally, at least, it is a home game for Haifa.
"I have no doubt which color will predominate in the stands. The most popular team in Nicosia is Omonia and traditionally all its fans also support Olympiakos," Gogic explained.
Olympiakos coach Takos Lemonis talked about the form of Group F favorites Manchester United so far in the English Premiership this season: "They did not need to be in top form against Middlesrough. Their defense is very strong through the towering presence of Rio Ferdinand and the 4-5-1 formation allows less space for opposing attackers," he explained.
But at the same time Lemonis said, United could be caught off guard on the counter-attack.
The Greeks have allocated only 330 tickets for Bayer Leverkusen in their first game on September 18, which will be held concurrently with Haifa's match against United at Old Trafford.
Leverkusen's fans are not known to travel afar with their club and the Pireaeus stadium is small. For the return, Leverkusen have allowed Olympiakos 1,700 tickets with an option to buy another 5,000, but that will likely be determined by the interest the Greeks have in the competition in the latter part of the first phase of group games.
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