Fortounis injury creates unwanted tactical headache

Fortounis injury creates unwanted tactical headache

With Olympiacos set to play Viktoria Plzen in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round on July 23, the long-term injury suffered by Kostas Fortounis has created a large, unwanted headache for Pedro Martins.

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This is the worst case scenario for Olympiacos. Captain and star midfielder Fortounis, who registered a superb total of 17 goals and 16 assists in the previous season, received the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament injury in a recent friendly against Hamburg and will miss the next six months. Olympiacos’ entire attacking game is based around the 26-year-old, and with the crucial Champions League qualifiers looming large, Pedro Martins has a hugely difficult task of recovering from the setback and immediately creating a Plan B.

Luckily, Olympiacos signed dynamic, versatile French midfielder Mathieu Valbuena this summer. Although Valbuena is most effective on the wing, the 34-year-old is perfectly capable of playing as the main attacking midfielder behind the striker, something which certainly makes Martins’ life slightly easier. Additionally, Martins could consider switching from a 4-4-1-1 formation to a 4-4-2 system, but he would prefer to keep the strategy the same especially with such little time remaining before the Champions League battle with Plzen.

Olympiacos have promptly been linked with 22-year-old Portuguese attacking midfielder Joao Carvalho. At the moment, Carvalho is playing his football with Nottingham Forest in England, but given that the club is owned by Olympiacos supremo Evangelos Marinakis, there is a strong possibility the Erythrolefki would be able to sign him on loan for the 2019/2020 season. However, Carvalho is also currently injured, and he will only be fit again for August. Carvalho did not travel to Greece for Nottingham’s friendly matches against Atromitos and Olympiacos.

Also, alongside the Carvalho rumours, reports have suggested that Olympiacos are considering making a move for Bibars Natcho again. In 2018, Olympiacos signed Natcho from CSKA Moscow, but the box-to-box Israeli midfielder subsequently cancelled his contract with the club this year after he was unhappy with his playing time in Piraeus. Natcho would give Martins more options in midfield if he returned to Olympiacos.

Fortounis is set to undergo surgery on July 20.

While there is a chance that Carvalho and Natcho will sign, the most likely scenario is for Valbuena to be used in Fortounis’ position, and Martins has the opportunity to see how the gifted Frenchman competes in that role when Olympiacos face Nottingham Forest in a friendly on Tuesday. The game will be played at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus.

Here is a line-up which Martins could use against Viktoria Plzen on July 23:

Jose Sa (goalkeeper)

Leonardo Koutris, Ruben Semedo, Ousseynou Ba, Omar Elabdellaoui (defenders)

Guilherme, Mohamed Camara (defensive midfielders)

Daniel Podence, Giorgos Masouras (wingers)

Mathieu Valbuena (attacking midfielder)

Miguel Angel Guerrero (forward)


by Shaun Nicolaides

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