EUROPA LEAGUE PREVIEW:
OLYMPIACOS - BESIKTAS
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - ROUND OF 16 (LEG 1)
Georgios Tsitsonis from AGONAsport.com brings you a full preview for Olympiacos’ first leg matchup against Besiktas in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16.
Olympiacos must overcome their own problems and try to defeat an in-form powerhouse at the same time as they prepare to take on Besiktas in a Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match on Thursday. The Piraeus club enter this massive clash having endured one of their worst league runs in recent memory. Sunday’s 2-0 away defeat to PAOK was the club’s third consecutive league loss, something that hadn’t occurred in over 20 years. The loss also led to the removal of Paulo Bento as manager with the Portuguese boss paying the price for the team’s poor form.
Vasilis Vouzas, the team’s U-20 coach, has been installed as interim manager. The 50-year-old Vouzas faces a baptism of fire on Thursday with a big European fixture against Turkish opposition. Olympiacos will hope to summon the spirit of two weeks ago when a fine 3-0 2nd leg victory saw them oust another Turkish side, Osmanlispor, in the Round of 32 of the competition.
It certainly won’t be easy for the Greek champions. Besiktasmay have been embarrassed in their final Champions’ League Group Stage match away to Dynamo Kiev with a 6-0 defeat that saw them drop into the Europa League.
However, since then Senol Gunes’ side have dramatically improved. Turkish champions last season and atop the Turkish Super Lig yet again, the Black Eagles are certainly flying high at the moment.
The team’s form has been tremendous as of late with consecutive wins in their last five matches. That includes an away derby win over rivals Galatasaray and both matches of a 5-2 aggregate win against Hapoel Beer Sheva in the Europa League Round of 32.
Olympiacos: The good news for Vouzas is that Manuel da Costa is expected to start after overcoming a knock suffered last week. That takes care of one defensive issue, especially in light of the fact that young center-back Bruno Viana is unavailable due to injury.
Brazilian winger Seba will miss out after picking up a foot injury against PAOK. That will be a big absence that Olympiacos must contend with as Seba has been one of the team’s top performers this season.
Nicola Leali continues to get the nod in goal for Olympiacos, though Stefano Kapino is racing for fitness to be included in the squad.
Besiktas: Gunes has a full squad from which to select from after Cenal Erkin has finally returned to the fold. Erkin who has missed five months of the season due to injury is included in the squad for Besiktas.
There are no other suspension or injury worries for the Black Eagles. The reigning Turkish champions will undoubtedly go to their favored 4-2-3-1 formation. Their greatest team assets are their speed and power, both at the back and in attack.
Oguzhan Ozyakup, considered the team’s most valued player in the transfer market at the moment, is the driving force of this side. Ozyakup is a true box-to-box midfielder whose work allows the attacking talents of Ricardo Quaresma, Ryan Babel, and Cenk Tosun amongst others to shine.
Olympiacos: Leali, Figueiras, Botia, da Costa, Cissokho, Romao, Martins, Fortounis, Marin, Elyounoussi, Ansarifard
Besiktas: Fabricio, Gonul, Marcelo, Nukan, Adriano, Hutchinson, Ozyakup, Quaresma, Talisca, Babel, Tosun
This 1st leg encounter will be officiated by Danny Makkelie. The 34-year-old Dutch referee has been branded as inexperienced by some media ahead of this match.
Despite his youth, Makkelie has officiated as a FIFA referee for six years. He oversaw the Europa League Round of 32 match between Olympiacos and Dnipro back in 2015 that finished in a 2-2 draw.
In the past he has also been in charge of matches with Greek teams in Europe, specifically involving Asteras Tripolis and Panathinaikos in the last few years.
- 3/15 PAOK-Olympiacos 2-0 (Greek SuperLeague)
- 3/2 Atromitos-Olympiacos 1-2 (Greek Cup)
- 2/26 Olympiacos-Panionios 0-1 (Greek SuperLeague)
- 2/23 Osmanlispor-Olympiacos 0-3 (Europa League, Round of 32)
- 2/19 AEK-Olympiacos 1-0 (Greek SuperLeague)
- 3/4 Besiktas-Rizespor 1-0 (Turkish Super Lig)
- 2/27 Galatasaray-Besiktas 0-1 (Turkish Super Lig)
- 2/23 Besiktas-Hapoel Beer Sheva 2-1 (Europa League, Round of 32)
- 2/19 Besiktas-Akhisar 3-1 (Turkish Super Lig)
- 2/16 Hapoel Beer Sheva-Besiktas 1-3 (Europa League, Round of 32)
The two sides have met previously on two occasions, however both were in friendly matches. Olympiacos defeated Besiktas 2-1 in the team’s first ever meeting in a pre-season friendly in 2015.
The two sides met again this past summer in Turkey, with Besiktas emerging victorious 1-0 in that encounter.
The two teams were paired together in the 1959 European Cup, however due to tense Greek/Turkish relations at the time Olympiacos were forced to forfeit the two legs. More on that story here...
There could not be a greater contrast as to how these two sides enter the fray at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on Thursday evening.
On the one hand, Olympiacos, their season taking a nosedive in recent weeks, and onto their 5th manager of the season. On the other side, Besiktas, a club seemingly hitting top form at just the right time in the business end of the campaign.
It seems to amount to easy passage to the next round for the Turkish side, however form may end up counting little in what promises to be two fiercely contested matches.
Olympiacos must use their win against Osmanlispor in Turkey as the guide, though more important to the team will be to rediscover a confidence lost in the last few weeks domestically.
Besiktas will have no supporters inside the stadium, which could prove to make matters more difficult for them. On the pitch however this is a side with lots of quality overseen by a manager who has proven his worth both domestically in Turkey and at the international level. Considering Olympiacos' recent troubles, expect the Turks to do enough to swing the balance of this tie to their advantage heading into the 2nd leg.
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