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Olympiakos boss Michel confident of home victory over Manchester United

TOUGH TASK Michel reckons his side can beat United when they meet in GreeceTOUGH TASK: Michel reckons his side can beat United when they meet in Greece [GETTY]

United sit 11 points adrift of the Premier League’s top four, meaning the best possible route back into the Champions League could be through winning the competition.

With the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid still in the Champions League, that could prove to be a tall order.

And although Olympiakos look weak opponents on paper, the 28,000-strong home crowd will do everything they can to make United’s well-paid stars uncomfortable.

Michel, who won the Spanish league six times with Real Madrid, believes the importance of the game could have a bearing on United’s performance.

“We know there’s lots at stake for Manchester United in this match,” the Spaniard said. “We know United are not allowed to make any mistakes due to their position in the Premier League and we have to say probably this kind of situation may weigh too much on their players’ shoulders.

“It could be an incentive to them or it could be a burden on their shoulders.

“People say it’ll be a very demanding tie and that’s true. They are favourites, but nothing says we can’t beat Manchester United.”

UEFA ordered Olympiakos to shut a small section of their stadium as a punishment for displaying a Nazi banner during their group stage match against Anderlecht in December. But the home contingent among the sell-out 30,000 crowd is still expected to make a lot of noise.

Some areas of Piraeus, the port suburb of Athens which will host the game, are mired in poverty and football provides the local populace with a means of getting away from day-to-day struggles.

An Olympiakos official caused outrage when he branded the punishment by UEFA as “harsh”, but Michel offered a more refreshing take on the stadium closure.

olympiakosNOISE: Michel reckons United will find the home fans intimidating [GETTY]

They are favourites, but nothing says we can’t beat Manchester United

Michel

“If you break the rules you have to pay,” said the former Real Madrid midfielder, who took over last year.

“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 has every reason to be optimistic about his team’s chances of pulling off a shock win.

The Greek side came through a challenging group containing Paris St Germain, Benfica and Anderlecht.

In domestic competition they are also enjoying a stellar season, top and unbeaten in the Greek Super League and have only lost twice at home in the league in four years.

Michel’s preparations took a hit on Saturday, though, when top scorer Javier Saviola was ruled out with a thigh injury.

Having sold Kostas Mitroglou to Fulham in January, and with fellow striker Marko Scepovic cup-tied, Olympiakos only have one registered frontman who is fully fit in 21-year-old Michael Olaitan.

Mystery surrounds the availability of January signing Nelson Valdez.

“He’s alive and that’s all I am telling you,” Michel said with a smile when asked about the fitness of the Paraguayan.

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Olympiakos boss Michel confident of home victory over Manchester United

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