Greek champions will be Reds' toughest test

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The Independent Online

Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, believes his side's Uefa Cup third-round meeting with Greek champions Olympiakos will be their toughest test so far in the competition. Olympiakos were third in their Champions' League group behind Valencia and Lyon, and are formidable opposition on their own ground.

Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, believes his side's Uefa Cup third-round meeting with Greek champions Olympiakos will be their toughest test so far in the competition. Olympiakos were third in their Champions' League group behind Valencia and Lyon, and are formidable opposition on their own ground.

So far Houllier's team has struggled to see off modest opposition in Rapid Bucharest and Slovan Liberec, and will need to show improvement in the third round if they are to progress any further in this season's competition. The Reds were due to play the first leg at home on 23 November, but that has been switched because of domestic matches in Athens on 7 December. Liverpool will now play away in a fortnight's time and play host to their opponents in the second leg.

"This is a very hard draw because they are a team who have won their championship and have performed very well in the Champions' League," Houllier said. "They have already beaten Valencia and Lyon on their own ground, and both those are quality opposition. This shows they will be a very hard draw for us. We will need the same attitude and effort again. I know they are a very skilful side."

Houllier had reason to be grateful for the efforts of Emile Heskey on Thursday, the striker scoring in the 3-2 win over Liberec, despite taking a battering in the Liverpool cause. Heskey faced the sort of sustained thuggery from two defenders that would have seen them sent off in most Sunday league games. The centre-backs Josef Lexa and Petr Johana were the culprits, and it was a clear failing of the German referee Edgar Steinborn that only the latter was booked.

However, Heskey refused to be intimidated. He said: "I've had a few cuts and bruises in other matches, but the Slovan game was easily one of the worst. But I am used to it now. It's all about discipline. You don't like to be kicked and kicked and kicked again, but that's the game sometimes and I have to learn to handle it."

Rangers were paired with Kaiserslautern, the fourth time they have been up against a top German side in the past three seasons. They were dumped out of the Champions' League last season by Bayern Munich and then out of the Uefa Cup by Borussia Dortmund. The Ibrox leg is scheduled for 23 November and the away leg for 7 December, but the ties could be brought forward two days for television reasons, as Kaiserslautern are one of seven German teams still involved in the competition.

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