It was the third day of October 2007. Darko Kovacevic received the rebound after Christian Vander’s failed attempt to collect the ball and tipped it past the Werder Bremen goalkeeper to clinch an Olympiacos triumph in Germany 3-1.
That win was the first away victory of the Greek football club in the Champions League -since their debut in 1997- inspired by a coach that had previously served the club as a football player.
After that day, Takis Lemonis secured a place in both the fans’ hearts, as well as the pantheon of the Greek giants’ tacticians.
When 10,000 Olympiacos supporters travelled to Rome to watch their team’s game against Lazio one month later, few would have expected to witness a similar scenario unfolding before their eyes.
Kovacevic’s goal signed the conclusion of a glorious 2-1 comeback and the club’s second away win in the history of the tournament.
The trip from zenith to nadir though was quite short for the Greek coach and after the board decided upon his dismissal the following March, a current Barcelona employee, Pep Segura, was anointed with the task of bringing Olympiacos back to domestic glory.
Segura won the double and departed Piraeus to leave the coaching reins to Ernesto Valverde, who managed to change the philosophy of the club and turn ‘Thrylos’ into a modern football team.
Almost a decade later, Lemonis was appointed – for the fourth time – as Olympiakos coach and Kovacevic is ready to step up as the club’s sporting director.
The heroic duo are set to travel to Spain and face Barcelona on Wednesday, in a meeting with another two central figures of the club’s history.
Segura and Valverde will host their former team in the Catalans’ first home game in front of their fans since the controversy that surrounded the region following the independence referendum.
Heading to a game of special circumstances, the Blaugrana have managed to remain unbeaten so far this season, sitting atop of both LaLiga and the Champions League group tables.
One the other hand, the Greek champions are currently in the 5th position of the domestic league after winning against Panionios on Saturday.
Before that game Olympiacos were without a victory for four consecutive matches for the first time since the 1992/93 season.
Although their underwhelming season so far is also mirrored by a bottom spot in the major European league’s table, their performance against Juventus left a promising taste.
Two days after his return to his beloved port, Lemonis managed to regroup his squad, reorganise the players and hold Juventus goalless until the 70th minute of the game in Turin.
His mission is to lead his team through a whirlwind of demanding fixtures which include a double game against Valverde’s men and two domestic derbies against Panathinaikos and PAOK Salonica.
A solid performance in a boiling Camp Nou might boost the spirits at Olympiacos, who have never managed an away win in Spain (12 loses and 2 draws).
The quality and budget gap between the two teams, who are set for their first ever European meeting, is certainly noticeable and statistics aren’t in favour of the Greek side.
Numbers, however, weren’t with them before that cold October night in Northern Germany, as between 1997 and 2007 ‘Thrylos’ hadn’t tasted an away victory for 31 matches (24 L/ 7 D)
Since Kovasevic’s goal, Olympiacos managed to exorcise the ghosts of the past and mark another six away wins in 23 matches.
Currently participating in the group stage of the major European tournament for the 18th time in their history, the Greek giants decided to anoint the coach of their first CL away win as the man who will lead them through one of the hardest groups in their history.
Lemonis will sit on the bench and have Kovacevic on his side, both contemplating strategies on how to uphold a menacing Lionel Messi.
The scenario of the October night in 2007 might be a far cry from that of 2017, but the central figures of the narrative will be present on a mission to represent their club before the eyes of millions of football fans around the world.
Barcelona are the indisputable favourites, but Valverde’s team shouldn’t underestimate an experienced Champions League team which currently lick their wounds.