Olympiacos have launched an appeal to overturn the partial stadium closure that threatens to dampen their Champions League round of 16 first-leg encounter with Manchester United.
Punished for allegedly showing a racist banner during the Dec. 10 tie with Anderlecht, press spokesman Kostas Karapapas has confirmed the Greek club will do everything they can to ensure the Karaiskakis Stadium is bouncing for the match on Feb. 25, 2014, per Reuters and via Eurosport:
The punishment is because of one particular banner which as soon as it was seen was taken down and that is why it is harsh to say the least.
There was no racist slogan or racist banner, and no racist chanting or songs were heard during the match with Anderlecht.
The punishment from UEFA is a first level decision and we have submitted an appeal to try to ensure that our stadium is full for the match against Manchester United.
Although Olympiacos managed to win the fixture with their Belgian opponents 3-1, thus confirming passage into the knockout stages, they will be calling on the support of home fans to test United's resolve during the first-leg encounter.
Away goals hold major prominence in the Champions League and it's vital the Greek champions put David Moyes' men under as much pressure as possible throughout the opening 90 minutes.
If Olympiacos head to Old Trafford with a decent result, or without conceding an away goal, they will fancy their chances of stunning the English title holders on their own patch.
Zenit St. Petersburg are the subject of similar sanctions from UEFA but will not appeal their stadium closure in the lead up to the crucial match against Borussia Dortmund.
Both Olympiacos and the Russian outfit also received fines for the incidents and will be ordered to pay €30,000 and €40,000 respectively.
While United and Dortmund won't be too upset about having some of their opponents' fiercest fans missing, it's disappointing to see Europe's showcase club competition hampered by reported racism and disturbances.
UEFA must stand firm if evidence shows any supporters breaching social boundaries, as right now, the punishment does little to deter repeated episodes from occurring.