Olympiacos in crisis, looking ahead to Toumba & next season
AGONAsport’s Theo Bouras talks about Oscar Garcia’s future at Olympiacos and the importance of managerial stability in Piraeus. The Erythrolefki will have some key players returning before Sunday’s must-win derby away to PAOK in Thessaloniki.
Olympiacos in crisis, already looking to plan next season with García
Óscar García was all smiles at the conclusion of Sunday’s game. Standing next to his daughter, he said he dedicated the victory to her, and to the Olympiacos supporters that had been banned from this game. The Spaniard returned to the bench after a two-match hiatus where he was hospitalized with appendicitis. Indeed, García will be the one in charge of rebuilding a fragile Olympiacos side this coming summer. The administration is favoring retaining the coach in what definitely seems like a logical move.
The coaching carousel in Piraeus has been a farce in the last 3 years, and stability will only do positive things for the club. If the Erythrolefkoi do end up losing the Greek Superleague this year, it will only be the third season in the past 21 years where they will need to restructure their roster after a League disappointment.
After winning 7 consecutive league titles between 1997 and 2003, Olympiacos lost the 2004 crown to eternal-rivals Panathinaikos; thus sending then-president Socrates Kokkalis into a roster and coaching staff shake-up. Nikos Alefantos was relieved of his duties, and Dušan Bajević was appointed to lead the charge (much like he did at the start of the dynasty in the summer of 1996).
After a 5th place finish in 2010, Evangelos Marinakis, in one of his first acts as team owner, brought back fan-favorite Ernesto Valverde, and together, they began the current streak that has brought the Reds 7 consecutive league titles.
If Marinakis and the administration do keep García this summer, he would become the first coach in recent history that would have stayed in Piraeus after a trophyless season. García, in all fairness, did take over mid-season and can hardly be blamed for the team’s recent struggles. Many fans would have wanted Takis Lemonis to have stuck around and complete the season, however, the board felt that they had found their man in García and wanted him to take over immediately. One thing is for sure, Marinakis has shown very little patience with disappointing results and if the 2018-19 season starts with some slip-ups, García won’t be smiling for very long.
Key returns as team prepares for PAOK, Toumba with title hopes beginning to fade
García will have some weapons returning to his arsenal for this Sunday’s derby match in Thessaloniki. Felipe Pardo and Alaixys Romao both served suspensions last matchday and have very strong chances of being in the starting XI this Sunday.
Kostas Fortounis suffered a knock two weeks ago against Atromitos but all signs point to him being ready as well for this matchday. The Greek international has been disappointing this season as his game has taken some steps back. The vision, creativity, and skill that he displayed in his first two seasons with the club have almost disappeared. Fortounis seems out of synch and the criticism he has received, at the hands of the media and the fans, seems to be getting to him. The attacking midfielder from Trikala had a game for the ages in September of 2015 against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, but nowadays, he’s just a shell of his former self. For the first time in his Olympiacos career, there is heavy speculation that he might be counting down his final days at the club, and that García will deem his dispensable in the summer.
The team is considering this Sunday’s derby game to be a must-win affair. Olympiacos, which is 9 points in back of PAOK, is hoping to win an appeal this Thursday that will reduce their deducted points (currently at -3). If the appeal is successful and Olympiacos win on Sunday, the difference with PAOK will be at just 3 points thus setting fire to the League standings again. The board feels that they have been unfairly targeted by the Greek Soccer Federation, while other fan violence such as PAOK fans invading Giannina have gone unnoticed. Regardless of the result of Thursday’s court, the Erythrolefkoi will have their hands full, as PAOK is the league’s hottest team having won 10 straight league games.