Changing of the Guard
AGONAsport’s Theo Bouras talks about Olympiacos’ big 4:0 win over Luzern on Thursday.
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Looking at this past Thursday’s Europa League game, Olympiacos fans will be hard-pressed to find any negatives. A 4-0 trouncing of Swiss-side Luzern has almost already sent the Erythrolefki to the Playoff stage of the Europa League Qualifications.
Many of our critics will mention how Luzern is no European powerhouse. The Swiss side has been in the Europa League qualifiers six out of the past nine years but has never won a two-leg aggregate series. What has Olympiacos fans rejoicing is not the quality of the opponent, but rather the way the team performed. The wounds suffered at the hands of Hapoel Beer Sheva, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, and Anorthosis Famagusta are still too fresh; if we have learned one thing, it is that no team should be taken lightly in Europe.
Olympiacos on Thursday showed determination, grit, and a pace that has been missing from this team for the past two years. Playing their first official game of the 2018-19 campaign, the team, not only looked fresh, but the chemistry looked in mid-season form. Konstantinos Tsimikas, who returned to the club after being loaned to Dutch side Willem II, and Daniel Podence were on fire on the left side of the pitch, as their constant crosses and overlaps caused mayhem for the visiting side. Omar Elabdellaoui and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos were also linking well on the right side. The seasoned Greek veteran, who joined the club amidst tremendous controversy, is enjoying life in Piraeus.
Whether AEK fans want to admit this or not, Christodoulopoulos is a leader and will be playing with a huge chip on his shoulder this upcoming year. He potted in the first two goals for Olympiacos and his high intensity looks to be contagious for his teammates. More importantly, Lazaros seems to have taken a serious leadership role within the club and like team manager Pedro Martins mentioned early this week, the squad really feels like one big family.
Christodoulopoulos has also taken a lot of pressure off Konstantinos Fortounis. The attacking midfielder from Trikala has had a couple of seasons to forget. Fortounis seems to be a very reserved character and being the team leader for Greece’s biggest club was taking a toll on him. With Christodoulopoulos in the mix, Fortounis can once again just focus on himself. Thursday evening, Fortounis seemed to play with a much clearer head. His passing, his runs and overall pace of play were money!
The team is still not complete. Andreas Bouchalakis and Mady Camara will not be in the Starting XI come season time. If Thursday, however, is any indication of what this season will be, Olympiacos fans can be happy that this team will have an identity. An identity that has been missing since mid-2016.