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Europa Conference League Final: Olympiacos aiming to repeat Greece glory 20 years on

Euro 2004 hero Stelios Giannakopoulos wants Olympiacos to make history by beating Fiorentina in Athens

Europa Conference League ball

Stelios Giannakopoulos feels Olympiacos are the team of destiny in this year’s Europa Conference League – just like Greece were at Euro 2004.

The 49-year-old played nearly 200 games for Olympiacos before spending five seasons in the Premier League with Bolton and then a shorter spell at Hull City.

He was also part of the Greece squad which upset France in the quarter-finals and then hosts Portugal in the final to win the European Championships 20 years ago.

Giannakopoulos – who won 77 caps for his country and started the final in Lisbon – told BBC Sport ‘this reminds me of our run in Portugal.’

“It was a huge statement for Olympiacos to win two games (in the Conference League semi-final) against Aston Villa, especially away from home,” he said.

“You match a club like Aston Villa – with huge players and a very good manager, with a Champions League position in the Premier League – away from home, that says a lot.

“That says that Olympiacos has gone really far, beyond Greece, And this reminds me of Euro 2004, especially the game when we managed to beat France with all the big stars, that was a big indication and the trigger point that we can go all the way and win the trophy.

“In this case, Olympiacos has it with Aston Villa. This is a sign for me that it’s time for Olympiacos to go all the way and win this major trophy.”

Giannakopoulos says it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for Greece’s most decorated club – with 47 titles in 99 years – to land the first European trophy in Greek football history – and on home soil in Athens.

He said: “It’s a huge thing for myself, being part of the Olympiacos family, for the club itself, it’s a unique opportunity, it’s a historical opportunity. It’s a European final in Greece so I think we have a life-time opportunity to create history.”

A victory for Erythroleykoi (the red and whites) at the home of fierce rivals AEK would delight their millions of fans but Giannakopoulos doubts all Greek fans will be so happy,

“I’m not sure it will happen, but I hope that all Greeks support Olympiacos because it’s a Greek club that has made it to the final and in times like this, we need to be united as a nation because a Greek club represents Greek football.”

José Luis Mendilibar only took charge of Olympiacos on February 12 but has guided them to the Conference League Final, just 12 months after winning the Europa League with Sevilla.

Giannakopoulos believes the reason for the Spaniard’s success is winning over the dressing room very quickly.

“With his experience, his calibre, his personality, he has created a very strong bond with the players and if you manage to win the dressing room, and you manage to make the players play for the club or even play for you as the manager, you are already successful.

“This is my sense, that he has won the trust of the players and the players play for him as well.”

What would it mean for Greek football?

Giannakopoulos says the run to the final will benefit all of Greek football, but that victory in Athens would be the icing on the cake.

He said: “These type of wins put you on the football map, no doubt about that. It attracts better players to the Greek Super League, of course Olympiacos can attract even bigger stars in order to make a better or similar run in European competitions next year, and it’s very good in general for Greek football.

“It’s a good motivation for young players to chase their dreams to the end. You see that everything is possible, even a Greek club can lift the trophy. So it’s very huge in every aspect you analyse it from.”

Tickets for the game at the 32,500-capacity AEK Stadium are like gold dust and Giannakopoulos revealed: “We call them magical tickets because they are only going to 9,000 or 10,000 lucky fans. Olympiacos has millions of fans so that number is nothing.

“I am lucky because I will be one of the 9,000 – I will be there with my boys, cheering the team.”

Who is favourite for tonight’s clash?

Despite being effectively the way team, Fiorentina are favourites with bet365 offering odds of 7/5 for them to go one better than last year and win inside 90 minutes.

Olympiacos are at 21/10.

Click here for a full betting preview and to receive the best promotional offers on the market

Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.