Conference League final in Athens will have massive security operation as Olympiakos goes for title

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — With Greek club Olympiakos aiming for its first European trophy, there will be a massive security operation in Athens for Wednesday’s Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina.

More than 3,000 police officers will be on duty for the game, with the AEK Arena surrounded by security measures that will halt traffic, close local schools and even ban food deliveries north of the Greek capital.

There could still be some celebration on the streets if Olympiakos delivers the trophy.

Despite a disappointing domestic season, Olympiakos has the momentum in the third-tier European competition after knocking out Fenerbahce and Aston Villa in the previous rounds.

Moroccan striker Ayoub El Kaabi is the competition’s top scorer with 10 goals, while coach Jose Luis Mendilibar has brought some calm to the team after becoming its third manager of the season.

The 63-year-old Mendilibar led Sevilla to the Europa League trophy last season, and the Spanish coach said he will stick to the team’s hard-pressing playing style in the final.

“I (cannot) transform things with a magic wand,” Mendilibar said. “I am not a guru, I’m a coach. I aim to present my team as best as I can and expect the best result.”

Fiorentina is back in the final after losing last year’s title match to West Ham, having dominated most of their knockout games and scored a competition-high 25 goals.

Coach Vincenzo Italiano said his team will take the hard lessons learned from last year’s final to Athens.

“We never give up on games,” said Italiano, who rested key players in the team’s last league game ahead of the European final. “The difference (from last year) is that we know the path we’re on, we know what we’re up against, what we’re playing, the importance of the game, how to prepare for it emotionally, mentally, physically. We come to the match with a little more experience.”

Greece’s government decided on the heavy policing measures for the final following a domestic shake-up. Top-flight soccer venues in Greece were closed for two months earlier this season as electronic ticketing and other new security measures were introduced.

The Greek Cup Final was held without fans this past weekend due to concerns about potential violence. The game still came to a chaotic end after Panathinaikos beat Aris 1-0 with an injury time goal, as police had to intervene to shield French referee Stephanie Frappart as she was escorted off the field while being confronted by Aris players and club officials.


AP soccer:

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