Stars align to send Greek tourism figures soaring




By Stathis Kousounis

A variety of factors contributed to the impressive rise in tourist traffic this summer season, which is expected to hit a record high of 16.5 million visitors by the end of the year.

The main reason is without doubt the political unrest in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, which compelled thousands of tourists who traditionally travel to destinations such as Egypt and Morocco to seek safer holidays in places including Greece and its main competitors Turkey, Spain and Cyprus.

Meanwhile, another contributing factor to the boom this season was the agreement by hoteliers to keep their prices competitive despite the current difficulties, as well as the government’s decision to decrease value-added tax on accommodation, both moves that made Greece attractive in terms of cost.

Also, a number of external factors positively affected the local tourism industry. For example, speeding up the visa-issuing process for visitors from new origin markets such as Russia resulted in a major influx of visitors from that country, as did the launch of a major campaign to promote Greece as a destination in Israel and a decision to make it easier for Green Passport-holding Turks to come to Greece.

However, things were not so rosy regarding domestic tourism, which saw a significant slump in accord with the economic crisis and people’s shrinking budgets. According to official figures, Greeks cut back significantly on the number of destinations they visited this summer, on the number of days they took off for vacations and on their holiday spending.

Another major factor that contributed to the growth in foreign visitors was the significant increase in the number of charter and low-budget flights to Greece from abroad, and especially to the country’s most popular holiday destinations.

The islands of Rhodes and Kos, for example, which lead in the number of charter flights they receive each year, respectively enjoyed rises of 28.3 and 26.2 percent in the seven months from April through October this year compared to last. Meanwhile, other destinations around the country started making a concerted effort before the start of the season to attract more low-budget and charter flights, including the Ionian island of Corfu, the region of Magnesia in central Greece and the northern port city of Thessaloniki.

Cruise ship tourism has also seen a good year, according to the data, despite the fact that Greece has not fully lifted cabotage in accordance with requests by major cruise operators that want to use Greek ports as the start and end points of their cruises.

According to official figures, the number of cruise ships that sailed into the port of Piraeus in the first six months of 2011 rose by 5.1 percent compared to last year, while the number of passengers leaped from 80,000 to 139,000, or 72.9 percent, in the same period.

Meanwhile, the port of Katakolo in the western Peloponnese welcomed 460 cruise ships in the January-August period this year, compared to 360 in the same period in 2010, and Rhodes saw a 1.8 percent increase in the number of tourists from cruises who visited the island in the same period compared to last year. In fact, it is estimated that by the end of 2011, some 600,000 cruise tourists will have visited the southeastern Aegean island.


"The Black Hell" awaits our young team!

NEW! – See the current injury list for all Premiership Teams!
All the Spurs Stats you could hope for here! THFC6061 Sports Stats


Spurs record in Europe:-

 
U.E.F.A Champions League
 
 P   W   D   L   F - A
12   5   3   4  25 -19
 
European Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
8   4   1   3  21 - 13
 
(Semi-Finalists 1962)
 
European Cup Winners Cup
 
P   W   D   L   F - A
33  20  5   8  65 - 34
 
(Winners 1963)
 
UEFA Cup/Europa League
P   W   D   L   F - A
87 52  21  15  187-71 
 
(Winners 1972, 1984
 Finalists 1974)
 
Total
P    W   D   L   F - A
140 81  30  29  296-134 

“The Black Hell” awaits our young team!

Spurs travel to Greece for only the second time in their history of European competition. I am assured by a correspondent in Greece that we will receive a “warm and interesting” welcome. The atmosphere in the PAOK stadium is apparently known as “The Black Hell”. I’m thinking shades of Besiktas in October 2006, when the Turkish stadium was literally jumping. The vast majority of the 28,000 fans in the Toumba Stadium on Thursday will perhaps be of a similar nature, not that I anticipate anything other than an exciting and intimidating atmpsohere, without physical threat.

Ideally Spurs could do with an experienced team for this fixture, but the news suggests that many of the first team squad are not travelling. A whole team is staying at home for injury and selection reasons – Friedel; Walker, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Sandro, Parker; Van Der Vaart, Modric, Bale; Adebayor – so several youngsters will be getting exposure to this challenging environment. A starting line-up of Cudicini/Gomes; Corluka, Kaboul, Bassong, Townsend; Falque, Carroll, Livermore, Giovani; Kane; Pavlyuchenko is suggested, with some experience on the bench to include perhaps Tom Huddlestone, Jermain Defoe and Niko Kranjcar. Our Carling Cup team at Stoke on Tuesday could be similar.

Our other European tie against a Greek team was back in October/November 1972, when we were the UEFA Cup holders, and had beaten Lyn Oslo 12-3 on aggrregate in the first round. Olypiakos Piraeus were more resilient and were beaten 4-1 on aggregate, with Spurs winning the home leg 4-0, and conceding just the one goal in Greece. Jimmy Pearce scored two of our four goals, with Martin Chivers and Ralph Coates adding to the score. Chivers may well travel with those taking the hospitality package to this game, and will have some tips for the team too, I imagine. It’s a sobering thought that three of our squad for that Olympiakos tie are no longer with us. I refer to Cyril Knowles, Ralph Coates, and Jimmy Neighbour. As a matter of interest, Olympiakos are in Arsenal’s group in the Champions League this year.

The team name PAOK is derived from the full title of the Pan-Thessalonian Athletic Club of Constantinopolitans, based in Thessalonika (Salonika), the second largest City in Greece. PAOK qualified for the Europa League after finishing fourth in last season’s Greek Superleague, and they currently sit in fifth place, although they’ve only played two league games. PAOK lost away to Ergotelis 2-1 last Saturday, and won their other league game 1-0 at home.

PAOK have already played four matches in the Europa League, where they beat the Norwegian team Valerenga 5-0 on aggregate in the 3rd quaifying round, and then the Ukrainian side Karpaty 3-1 on aggregate in the final qualifyer. Their squad is predominantly Greek, but their main goal-scoer with three goals in their 6 games to date is the Portuguese winger Adelino Vieirinha, now in his fourth season with PAOK, having been signed from Porto, after a spell on loan. 22 year old Stefanos Athanasiadis, has also scored two early goals, and made his senior International debut in the summer for Greece against Ecuador. The PAOK squad has an average age of 26.89 years, with predominantly young forwards, but some seasoned midfielders and defenders. The squad includes two Brazilians, and 34 year old Uruguayan international midfielder Pablo Garcia. Add to these a couple of Croatians, one of whom is named Etto, a Chilean, Italian and Columbian, and you do have quite an International mix!

The Greek fans like their firecrackers, and any London-based fans trying to get to the White Hart Lane match later in the programme could offer a challenge to security! I hope to come back on Friday in one piece with a tale of victory!

Due to my travel arrangements, the Spurs Odyssey post-match survey and report will be delayed till Friday evening.

Follow the link on the logo above for an excellent FREE football speadsheet service. Spurs Odyssey relies upon this service every year

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Greece, Europe struggle to contain crisis

CURFEW BETWEEN 11PM AND 4AM

Tuesday, 13 Septemeber, 2011

(6:00pm) PM announces new hotspot areas: MORUGA, CLAXTON BAY, CEDROS, MALONEY, LA HORQUETTA, CALY BAY, DOW VILLAGE, MC BEAN, CHASE VILLAGE

Wednesday, 7th September, 2011

(2:40PM) The national community is reminded of the National Hotlines established to share information with the members of the Protective Services. The Hotlines are 800-0699 and 800-0700.


Sunday 4th September, 2011

(4:00PM) The motion to extend the State of Emergency for a further three months has been passed – 29 members voted for while 10 voted against there were no abstentions. PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar also announced a change in the curfew hours to 11pm to 4am effective Monday September 5th.

Saturday 3rd September, 2011
(11:58PM) Parliament has just been adjourned until 10am Sun 4th September when debate will continue on the current State of Emergency. Votes taken for adjournment were Yes:29 No:9 Abstentions:0


Friday 2nd September, 2011

(3:30PM) 1,143 arrested during State of Emergency

Coast Guard, acting on intelligence, seized a vessel with four persons onboard, including two Trinidadians and confiscated cocaine with a street value of $3.2 million on board the vessel.

Wednesday 31st August,2011

PUBLIC ADVISORY – NO FIREWORKS DISPLAY

August 31, 2011. Port of Spain. Members of the National Community are advised that the traditional Independence Day fireworks display will not be conducted this year.


Tuesday 30th August, 2011

(3:00PM) 820 persons have been arrested since for the duration of the State of Emergency

Monday 29th August, 2011

(4:00PM) Contact numbers for police stations across TT http://ht.ly/6fRK2

(3:30PM) PM has announced that the State of Emergency will be extended. No further details given.

PM Persad-Bissessar denied accusations from members of the public that the curfew and arrests were race oriented and designed to target a certain group in the society.

Sunday 28th August, 2011

(12:30PM) Curfew Regulation amended:
1. Fine for breaking curfew increased to $3000 or 6 months in prison.
2. Anyone found to be harbouring criminals or in possession of illegal guns is liable to $5000 fine or 1 year in prison

(12:15PM) National Security Media Briefing: CoP Gibbs says from 8am yesterday and 8am today: 117 persons arrested. 26 gang related, 26 drug related, 16 breaking curfew, 31 serious crime, 15 outstanding warrant

Saturday 27th August, 2011

Government will place advertisements in the media advising citizens of their rights during a State of Emergency and likewise the powers of the security forces during this time;

Duo held in $9,600 suite

Soldiers called to PM’s side ….Protest at St Paul Street

Friday 26th August, 2011

32 charged under new Anti-Gang Act

Man, 26, stabbed to death during row with woman

CJ names 3 lawyers to Review Tribunal

Thursday 25th August, 2011

(6:30PM) STATE OF EMERGENCY TOLL FREE HOTLINE NUMBERS ARE 800-0699 AND 800-0700. These numbers are to provide information/intelligence on criminal activity.


(4:15PM) Arrests totals so far: 315 [ 115 Gang related, 12 Homicide related, 65 Drug related, 9 Firearm related, 11 serious offences, 86 Outstanding warrants ]

(4:00PM) Change in Visiting Hours at San Fernando General Hospital http://ht.ly/6cYWC

(3:00PM) Airport Authority of TT – Media Release http://ht.ly/6cVt6

Wednesday 24th August, 2011

(3:00PM) With reports of panic buying NP assures no shortage of fuel http://ht.ly/6bR6G

(2:30PM) The AG also advised of a National Hotline being established within the next 24 hours and the public will be appraised.

(2:00PM) As at 8:00a.m. today, one hundred and seventeen persons [117] were taken into custody, 56 of which are related to gangs, 48 related to narcotics, 4 related to possession of illegal firearms, 1 related to homicide, and 8 others related to other serious crimes

(10:00AM) The school term, which is scheduled to begin on September 5, will not be affected by the country’s State of Emergency.

Tuesday 23rd August, 2011

(6:30PM)
PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar update on State of Emergency http://ht.ly/6aYJ7

(6:19PM)
22 Gang Leaders and Members arrested in the last 24 hours. Accomodation is being made to deal with departing and arriving passengers at our national airports.

(1:00PM) Independence day Firework celebrations cancelled

(12:10PM) American Airlines (AA) resume flights into TT after cancellations yesterday. Announced by Minister Sandy a moment ago.

Monday 22nd August, 2011

(9:15PM)
Defence Force Hotline for State of Emergency, Trinidad Tobago – 634-3221

(8:54PM)
ISSUANCE OF CURFEW PERMITS. The TTPS notes there are two categories for Curfew Permits. They are as follows: http://ht.ly/69ZMc

(7:50PM) From the Port Authority: Due to the limited hours of operations, the 1.30pm sailing of the TT Express from POS on Thursdays, Fridays Mondays have had to be cancelled. TT Express shall be rescheduled to depart POS at 8.30 am Scarborough at 4.00 pm daily, except Wednesdays when it departs Scarborough at 12.00 noon. The 10.00 am sailing of the TT Express from Scarborough will be cancelled on Thursdays, Fridays and Mondays. Persons with ferry tickets for the cancelled sailings will be accommodated, as space becomes available on any of the day’s sailings. The sailings of the TT Spirit will remain as scheduled.

(5:49PM) via Caribbean Airlines – We have been advised that all passengers travelling out of Piarco International Airport must travel with 2 forms of photo ID and their travel itinerary. Those coming to Trinidad must keep all their travel documents including boarding tickets. All our flights are operating according to our normal schedule.

(5:25PM) Minister of Transport Senator Devant Maharaj announced on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 that all bus and maxi taxi services will end at 8 p.m. from tonight. Read more here: http://ht.ly/69RZY

Map of SOE Areas
(4:00PM) IMAGE:


(3:00PM)
With immediate effect, all Hi-Lo stores nationwide, FoodMasters and LBs will be closed daily at 6:00 p.m. to allow staff to get home safely. Please be guided accordingly.

(2:56PM) MEDIA RELEASE: OFFICE OF THE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR COUVA NORTH http://ht.ly/69IIo

(2:44PM) Hi-Lo Food Stores wishes to inform all customers that due to the current situation in the country, all our stores will be closing at 6:00 p.m. to allow all their employees to get home safely and in a timely manner.

(2:20PM)
Proclamation and Emergency Powers Regulations 2011 http://ht.ly/69GaK

(2:10PM) Breakdown of State of Emergency Areas: http://ht.ly/69Fc0

(1:00PM) Persons travelling out of the airport can apply for passes near the domestic terminal

(12:55PM) Public can apply for passes at their local police Stations and is asked to have two forms of picture ID on them in lieu of required passes

(7:00AM) AG Anand Ramlogan: Affected areas are the following…
City of Port of Spain; City of San Fernando; Borough of Arima; Borough of Chaguanas; Diego Martin Regional Corporation; San Juan Laventille Regional Corporation

PM declares limited state of emergency – http://ht.ly/69xHG

Sunday 21st August, 2011

(9:00PM)
BREAKING NEWS: Limited State of Emergency declared – http://ht.ly/69xKh

Mt Lambert residents fed up Flooding, crime plague community – http://ht.ly/69xSC

Toughen gun laws, says Rowley – http://ht.ly/69xW6

Saturday 20th August, 2011
Seven murdered yesterday – http://ht.ly/69xMP

Woman murdered in Point Lisas by man on bicycle – http://ht.ly/69xPU


Senior Travel: Get a handle on the best hotels, best prices for fall travel to Europe

Fall is a great time to visit Europe — summer crowds are down and you can actually get into the main visitor attractions without waiting or crowding. Also, you aren’t likely to suffer a heat wave in areas where air-conditioning is rare or unknown, the new season’s theater and music schedules come alive, and airfares are usually sharply down from their summer highs. What’s not to like?

These days, most of you have realized that deciding when to buy the lowest airfare is always a crapshoot, and that the best way to find your best deal is (1) to sign up for as many deal-notification programs as you can, (2) pounce on a good deal when you see one, and (3) don’t think it’s the end of the world if a slightly cheaper fare comes along later. Instead, a lot of you bargain hunters have trained your sights on hotels, where you find more options and more discount action than ever before.

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Although you shouldn’t select your destination strictly by where you get the best deals — after all, if you want to see the Louvre or Westminster Abbey, your choices are pretty limited. Still, destination accommodations are likely to cost at least as much as airfares, and relative price and value of accommodations may well enter into your calculations. One of Europe’s largest hotel price comparison sites, Trivago.com, has recently published some data that help in that process.

Prices. News on prices isn’t good. According to Trivago’s survey, average hotel prices at Europe’s 50 “major” visitor destinations are 10 percent to 20 percent higher than last year at this time. Still, current (August data) prices are lower than earlier in the year.

— This month’s list of lowest-priced of the 50 major cities includes two “usual suspects” in Eastern Europe as well as some surprises: Average daily rates are below $100 in Sofia, Seville, Granada, Bucharest, Birmingham, and Budapest; between $100 and $110 in Krakow, Valencia, and Bologna.

— In general, German cities remain fairly affordable — especially Berlin, at $113 — along with many cities in economically-troubled Greece, Italy, and Spain.

— At the other end of the scale, the average price in Paris is $202 Paris and Nice; they’re higher yet in Copenhagen, Salzburg, Stockholm, London, Oslo, Cannes, Venice, and Edinburgh, topping out at a fat $300 in Geneva.

— Obviously, Scandinavia remains off limits to budget-minded travelers. And UK cities show a huge variation, with Edinburgh and London near the top and Birmingham in the least expensive group.

Of course, you can always pay more or less than “average.” But these figures should be a pretty good guide to accommodations costs in any price range, from budget to deluxe. For more detail, log onto www.trivago.co.uk/hotelprices.

Reputations. Trivago compiles a lot of hotel rating information, based on millions of traveler reviews, similar to what you find in TripAdvisor. Ratings for “reputation,” essentially meaning how well the visitors liked the hotels, range from a high of 82 to a low of 72, and, as with prices, Trivago found quite a bit of variation:

— Travelers gave highest ratings to accommodations in Dresden, Krakow, Bruges, Venice, Bologna, and Budapest, all scoring over 80.

— Scoring between 78 and 79 are Florence, Bucharest, Valencia, Prague, Barcelona, Sofia, Salzburg, and Lisbon.

— Of the top 50 cities, London ranks dead last, at 72, and a big gap below the next lowest, Birmingham at 74. That generally conforms to my experience: Unless you spend a lot of money, midrange London hotels tend to be very underwhelming.

Although London and Birmingham do poorly, other UK cities were mainly in the great middle range.

Clearly, accommodations costs and reputation shouldn’t dictate where you go. But if you’re considering places you might like to visit, several major cities — Bologna, Budapest, Krakow, Sofia, and Valencia — score well for both low cost and good accommodations. And those are all great cities you might want to visit in any case.

Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at [email protected] Perkins’ new book for small business and independent professionals, “Business Travel When It’s Your Money,” is now available through www.mybusinesstravel.com or www.amazon.com


Stars align to send Greek tourism figures soaring




By Stathis Kousounis

A variety of factors contributed to the impressive rise in tourist traffic this summer season, which is expected to hit a record high of 16.5 million visitors by the end of the year.

The main reason is without doubt the political unrest in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, which compelled thousands of tourists who traditionally travel to destinations such as Egypt and Morocco to seek safer holidays in places including Greece and its main competitors Turkey, Spain and Cyprus.

Meanwhile, another contributing factor to the boom this season was the agreement by hoteliers to keep their prices competitive despite the current difficulties, as well as the government’s decision to decrease value-added tax on accommodation, both moves that made Greece attractive in terms of cost.

Also, a number of external factors positively affected the local tourism industry. For example, speeding up the visa-issuing process for visitors from new origin markets such as Russia resulted in a major influx of visitors from that country, as did the launch of a major campaign to promote Greece as a destination in Israel and a decision to make it easier for Green Passport-holding Turks to come to Greece.

However, things were not so rosy regarding domestic tourism, which saw a significant slump in accord with the economic crisis and people’s shrinking budgets. According to official figures, Greeks cut back significantly on the number of destinations they visited this summer, on the number of days they took off for vacations and on their holiday spending.

Another major factor that contributed to the growth in foreign visitors was the significant increase in the number of charter and low-budget flights to Greece from abroad, and especially to the country’s most popular holiday destinations.

The islands of Rhodes and Kos, for example, which lead in the number of charter flights they receive each year, respectively enjoyed rises of 28.3 and 26.2 percent in the seven months from April through October this year compared to last. Meanwhile, other destinations around the country started making a concerted effort before the start of the season to attract more low-budget and charter flights, including the Ionian island of Corfu, the region of Magnesia in central Greece and the northern port city of Thessaloniki.

Cruise ship tourism has also seen a good year, according to the data, despite the fact that Greece has not fully lifted cabotage in accordance with requests by major cruise operators that want to use Greek ports as the start and end points of their cruises.

According to official figures, the number of cruise ships that sailed into the port of Piraeus in the first six months of 2011 rose by 5.1 percent compared to last year, while the number of passengers leaped from 80,000 to 139,000, or 72.9 percent, in the same period.

Meanwhile, the port of Katakolo in the western Peloponnese welcomed 460 cruise ships in the January-August period this year, compared to 360 in the same period in 2010, and Rhodes saw a 1.8 percent increase in the number of tourists from cruises who visited the island in the same period compared to last year. In fact, it is estimated that by the end of 2011, some 600,000 cruise tourists will have visited the southeastern Aegean island.


Backlash builds in Greece against new cuts

Greece is facing a new bout of industrial unrest over an unexpected fresh round of austerity measures enacted to overcome scepticism by EU-IMF creditors about the country’s halting reform pace.

Thousands of taxi owners opposed to a liberalisation of their sector demonstrated in Athens, wearing yellow caps matching the colour of their cars and waving Greek flags.

The taxi unions in Athens and other regions around the country which called a strike for Monday through Wednesday organised the protest.

Back in July they had staged a three-week strike that disrupted the travel plans of thousands of tourists.

Tax office and customs staff and hospital doctors began a strike on Monday against salary and budget cuts, while garbage collectors are holding four-hour work stoppages over layoffs.

And millions of homeowners are in arms after the government at the weekend announced a new property tax translating into hundreds of euros on average, just 10 days after a higher sales tax on food at restaurants and hotels came into effect.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has tried to galvanise his embattled government and his dispirited parliamentary majority to approve the fresh measures, warning that Greece’s economic survival is at stake.

“It is time to complete the battle to give Greece safety,” he told the ruling party’s MPs on Monday.

“Together we must silence those who doubt us,” Papandreou said.

Greece’s eurozone partners have warned that reform delays and slippage from agreed fiscal targets could cost Athens the timely release of an eight billion euros ($A10.61 billion) loan slice, part of a 110-billion-euro bailout contracted last year to forestall a Greek bankruptcy.

Athens has admitted that its reserves run out in October.

Scepticism towards Greece is gathering pace just as European parliaments are meeting to finalise a new 159-billion-euro bailout agreed in July.

Reform laws voted months ago have yet to be put into practice, and a crash privatisation program has made little tangible progress.

The government this week called on over 150 state-owned companies and utilities to earmark excessive staff for early retirement and transfer to other public sector jobs where there are shortages.

The plan is to put some 3,500 civil servants on partial employment or ‘labour reserve’ by the end of the month.

The authorities have promised to reduce the state payroll by 150,000 staff by 2015.

The finance ministry on Monday said the state budget deficit had jumped to 18.1 billion euros as the debt-mired country had to pay more to service its loans and had increased social outlays due to a deepening recession.

The ministry had intended to collect 54 billion euros in revenue this year but is over two billion euros off-target while the Greek economy is expected to contract by 5.3 per cent of output this year according to the finance minister.

The plight of Greece’s economy has put global markets on watch for a possible domino effect in the eurozone where other nations are also struggling with sovereign debt.

The single currency on Monday fell to a 10-year low against the Japanese yen and German bond yields were squeezed down as traders sought a safe haven after senior German policymakers raised the spectre of an ignominious Greek eurozone exit.

Markets were already volatile following the shock resignation Friday of the chief economist at the European Central Bank, Juergen Stark, after the German reportedly disagreed with the ECB’s policies to fight the debt crisis.

And analysts feared that a sharper tone from Berlin indicated that Europe’s paymaster was losing patience with Athens and its deficit problems.


UEFA Champions League Preview: Olympiacos Vs Olympique de Marseille

UEFA Champions League Preview: Olympiacos Vs Olympique de Marseille

French Ligue 1 giants Olympique de Marseille travel to Athens, Greece to face 38-times Greek champions Olympiacos FC at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens in their opening game of the UEFA Champions League group stages.

A winless situation

Marseille head in to tonight’s game against the Greek giants on the back of a five-match winless run in the league. Les Phoceens have so far failed to register a single win in the 2011/2012 Championelle. Furthermore, Didier Deschamps’ men have lost two consecutive
games in the league.

Their first loss of the new season was before the international break when they lost 3-2 to LOSC Lille. In the week 4 of Ligue 1 action, the Rhone giants lost at home to Stade Rennais. Without a single win so far, pressure is on the French giants to record
a win against an Olympiacos side that could prove to be a tough test.

Deschamps admits that his team’s miserable form is “hardly ideal” as they face the Greek champions in a daunting environment. However, the French tactician has demanded his players to go for a win in order to turn things around.

With Marseille already in the relegation zone, Deschamps knows that a win tonight could shape things for the remainder of the season. Overall, Marseille have failed to win in eight Ligue 1 games which is the club’s worst record under the guidance of Deschamps.

While talking to media in a pre-game press conference, Deschamps said, “Of course, it’s hardly ideal in terms of confidence ahead of the Champions League. We have got to get over our disappointment to be ready for the best competition in Europe.”

A win in the Group F game against Olympiacos could definitely be the right result as it could set the tone for Marseille’s aspirations for this season.

Short of match practise

Olympiacos on the other hand have not played a competitive game since April when they beat Larissa. Ernesto Valverde’s players were supposed to play Kavala and Olympiacos Volou in the league. However the two clubs were deemed to the fourth tier of Greek
football after being found guilty of match fixing allegations.

This could be both a blessing and a curse for the Piraeus-based club. Furthermore, Marseille could prove to be the perfect opposition for the Greek giants owing to the French side’s woeful recent form.

A passionate home support that’s always an integral part of Olympiacos culture could give the home team a lot of confidence as they take on the French giants in their first competitive game of the 2011/2012 campaign.

Team news

Marseille

Stephane Mbia is out with a broken metatarsal while doubts remain on the fitness of Mathieu Valbuena who injured his knee in the 1-0 loss to Stade Rennais. Andre Ayew is still recovering from a groin injury so the Ghanaian might not feature as well.

Olympiacos

Ariel Ibagaza is definitely out after undergoing knee surgery. There were doubts surrounding the availability of Olof Mellberg, Francisco Yeste, and Rafik Djebbour. However the trio is expected to be fit for the curtain raiser of Group F.

Prediction

Though Marseille have been woeful to say the least this season, Olympiacos might show signs of rustiness after not being able to play a competitive game for more than four months. Marseille could edge this one out as the players have experience of playing
at the top level.

Predicted final score: Olympiacos 0-1 Marseille


US’ Geithner heads to Europe as debt fears mount

BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON: US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will travel to Poland to attend a meeting of euro zone finance ministers later this week as fears of a Greek debt default mount.

Geithner just returned to the United States on Saturday from a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers in Marseille, France, where he urged leaders of Europe’s strongest economies to offer “unequivocal” financial support for weaker European economies.
Mounting worry that the strongest economies, particularly Germany, are growing less willing to back countries like Greece that have struggled to meet debt-reduction targets sapped the euro and sent shivers through heavily exposed French banks on Monday as investor confidence in the euro zone’s ability to surmount a sovereign debt crisis ebbed.

The US Treasury said only that Geithner would discuss efforts to bolster economic recovery and to cooperate on financial regulation with his European counterparts. But the timing underlines US concern that Europe has been too slow to come to grips with its debt crisis.

It would be the first time a US Treasury secretary attends a meeting of euro zone finance ministers.

Shares in Societe Generale, BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole slumped more than 10 per cent amid expectations of an imminent downgrade by credit ratings agency Moody’s, due largely to their exposure to Greek bonds.

The surprise resignation of European Central Bank Chief Economist Juergen Stark on Friday and weekend comments by German politicians suggesting Athens may have to default and be “suspended” from the euro zone drove the euro to a 10-year low against the yen and a seven-month low against the dollar, though it later recovered some ground.

“Europe is not just lurching from one crisis to another. It is lurching into a new one before the previous one is solved,” said Makoto Noji, senior strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities.

The storm on Monday forced SocGen, the hardest-hit French lender in recent weeks, to announce further drastic measures it denied only last week were under consideration, speeding up asset disposals and deepening cost cuts to free up 4 billion euros in fresh capital.

The bank’s market value has shrunk from 110 billion euros in mid-2007 to just 12 billion on Monday. The bank’s chief executive said there were no discussions regarding possible state intervention.

Finance Minister Francois Baroin said French banks were solid enough to withstand any crisis in Greece and Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer rushed out a statement saying French banks were not at risk.

“There is no crisis for the banks because those that are currently being hit on the markets have all the necessary means to offer solutions,” Baroin told reporters, adding that G7 central banks were committed to providing “as much liquidity as banks need.”

French banks and insurers are not only the biggest foreign holders of Greek government bonds, both directly and through Greek subsidiaries, but also major creditors of Italy, which is increasingly in the markets’ firing line.

Moody’s is expected to downgrade Italy’s Aa2 sovereign rating this week, Richard Kelly, head of European rates and FX research at TD Securities said, noting that both Fitch and Standard Poor’s already had lower ratings for Rome.

OMINOUS START

It was an ominous start to a high-stakes week for the euro zone.

The ECB disclosed that it bought another 14 billion euros in euro zone government bonds last week, the biggest amount in three weeks, under a controversial policy to hold down troubled peripheral countries’ borrowing costs.


Greece, Europe struggle to contain debt crisis

(AP) BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought Tuesday to calm market fears that Greece is heading for a chaotic default as Europe struggles to contain a crippling financial crisis.

Merkel rejected the notion that a Greek bankruptcy — a possibility raised a day earlier by her deputy that spooked markets — would provide a quick solution to the eurozone debt crisis.

She argued that Europe instead needs to stick to its efforts to cut budget deficits and improve its competitiveness, and that resolving the crisis would be “a very long, step-by-step process.”

Her comments came ahead of a teleconference Wednesday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Fears of an imminent Greek default pushed interest rates on the country’s 10-year government bonds up Tuesday to a new record of over 24 percent, although Merkel sounded optimistic regarding Greece’s chances of getting the next batch of bailout cash from the so-called troika — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Representatives from the three organizations are due back in Athens soon.

“Everything that I hear from Greece is that the Greek government has hopefully understood the signs of the time and is now doing the things that are on the daily agenda,” Merkel told rbb-Inforadio. “The fact that the troika is returning means that Greece has started doing some things that need to be done.”

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama urged European leaders to take a more forceful approach to the continent’s debt problems, which could slow an already-faltering U.S. economy.

“They have taken some steps to slow the crisis but not solve the crisis,” Obama told a group of Spanish-speaking journalists Tuesday. “We will continue to see weaknesses in the world economy so long as this issue does not get resolved.”

Merkel also sought to defuse suggestions by Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler and others that a default by Greece is a possibility.

Roesler raised on Monday the specter of an “orderly insolvency” in the future, a notion the Dutch finance minister indicated was being considered.

Jan Kees de Jager told Dutch financial news show “RTL Z” on Tuesday that his ministry was “prepared or preparing for all conceivable scenarios and even the almost inconceivable scenarios.”

Asked if that included a Greek default, he said “It includes all likely and unlikely scenarios, but I can’t tell you specifically which.”

Merkel dismissed the idea that the debt crisis “could evaporate with one buzzword — be it eurobonds or insolvency or other words.”

“I am deeply convinced that won’t happen,” she told reporters after meeting Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen. The chancellor didn’t mention Roesler but pointed to the potential dangers of untested action.

“We must always keep in view that we do everything we do in a controlled way, that we know the consequences, because otherwise a situation could very quickly arise in the eurozone … that none of us wants and that could have very, very difficult consequences for us all,” Merkel said.

She suggested that even an orderly default couldn’t come any time soon, noting there wasn’t even a mechanism in place for a eurozone nation to default. The future European Stability Mechanism — the eurozone’s permanent bailout fund — will start up in 2013.

German opposition politicians have suggested Roesler’s main aim was to score political points for his Free Democratic Party, the junior partner in Merkel’s center-right coalition, which is struggling with dismal poll ratings.

Roesler defended his position Tuesday.

“We want Greece to stay in the eurozone,” he said. “For that, we need to restore (its) economic potential; and from my point of view, there can be no bans on thinking in this restoration.”

Greece is relying on rescue loans to remain solvent. But lagging efforts to tame a bloated budget deficit and enforce reforms are threatening that lifeline, which is conditional on fiscal progress.

Athens is trying to convince international creditors that it deserves to get the next, sixth tranche of money due from a bailout fund. Government spokesman Elias Mossialos said late Monday that Greece will get the bailout money.

Despite over 20 months of austerity and two international bailouts each worth about billion ($150 billion), Greece’s finances remain in a parlous state.

Over the past few days, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has issued a series of pledges to accelerate delayed reforms meant to cut the cost and size of the public sector, and raised the prospect of firing up to 20,000 public servants — which would break a major taboo in a country where state employees have guaranteed jobs for life.

In a last desperate bid to plug the revenue hole, the government on Sunday imposed a new, two-year blanket tax on property.

The planned second Greek bailout has faced delays in implementation — not least because of Finland’s demand for collateral for its contribution, which annoyed other Europeans.

Merkel said she was “very optimistic” of resolving that.

“I think we want to, and will, find a way that is in principle open to all partners and still fulfills Finland’s requirements,” she said.

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Paphitis reported from Athens. David Rising in Berlin, Elena Becatoros in Athens, Luis Alonso Lugo and Mike Corder in The Hague also contributed to this story.