Olympiacos aim for positive first leg result in the ‘Poli’
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - 3RD QUALIFYING ROUND (LEG 1)
AGONAsport previews the first leg of the Champions’ League third qualifying round tie between Basaksehir and Olympiacos.
Olympiacos are set to square off against Turkish football’s nouveau-riche this week in a bid to advance to the Champions’ League play-offs. The Piraeus side will go up against Istanbul Basaksehir in hopes of making it to the next round to face either Krasnodar or Porto.
Olympiacos’ plans for the new campaign were rocked by the news of Kostas Fortounis’ knee injury at the start of pre-season. Pedro Martins’ side were able to overcome that blow as they dispatched of Czech outfit Viktoria Plzen in the second qualifying round last week. After a 0-0 draw away in the first leg, an impressive performance back at the Karaiskakis Stadium sealed a 4-0 aggregate win for the Erythrolefki.
Turkish Super Lig runners-up Basaksehir promise to be a more difficult proposition. Started in just 1990, the club have only been regulars in the domestic top-flight since 2007. In recent years, they have battled against traditional powers such as Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, and Besiktas at the top of the league. Basaksehir have spent huge sums in the last few seasons to bring big names such as Robinho, Demba Ba, Gael Clichy, and Emanuel Adebayor to the Fatih Terim Stadium.
This season has featured a parting of ways with that philosophy. The summer signings have been underwhelming to a certain extent, both in cost and star power. Still, this is a side with quality throughout. It should be fascinating viewing to see how they get on under the leadership of new manager Okan Buruk, most recently the head coach at Rizespor. Buruk takes the reins from Abdullah Avci, who managed the club from 2014 until the end of last season. Avci oversaw Basaksehir’s move to the elite of Turkish football and has been snapped up by Besiktas.
Olympiacos will fancy their chances of picking up a positive result in the first leg. One reason for that is that the atmosphere inside the Fatih Terim Stadium rarely lives up to the usual passion of other Turkish clubs. Considered by many in the country as a sort of ‘plastic club’, Basaksehir do not possess a particularly large fan base.
Nonetheless, as a Greek-Turkish clash these two matches promise to be highly competitive and could provide high drama as both teams vie to take the next step toward the riches and prestige of a place in the Champions’ League Group Stage.
TEAM NEWS: Basaksehir
Moldovan center-back Alexandru Epureanu remains a long-term absentee after continuing to struggle with a knee issue dating from last season. That will be a big loss for the Turks, however the club has been buoyed by the news that star man Robinho is set to feature after missing most of the club’s preseason. Summer signings such as Enzo Crivelli, Aziz Behich, and Fredrik Gulbrandsen are set to feature in their first official match for Basaksehir.
Probable Line-up: Günok, Caicara, Chedjou, Ponck, Behich, Tekdemir, Kahveci, Visca, Robinho, Gulbrandsen, Crivelli.
TEAM NEWS: Olympiacos
Key men Fortounis and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos continue their long spells on the sidelines. Fortounis’ injury was a shock to Olympiacos’ plans for the season and the search for his replacement is ongoing. For now, Mathieu Valbuena looks to reprise his role in attacking midfield.
Leonardo Koutris has been left out of the squad once again, reportedly due to interest from a host of European clubs vying for his signing. That means Kostas Tsimikas will take up the left-back slot while Tunisian defender Yassine Meriah looks likely to partner Ruben Semedo in the center of the Olympiacos defense.
Probable Line-up: Sá, Elabdellaoui, Semedo, Meriah, Tsimikas, Guilherme, Bouchalakis, Podence, Valbuena, Masouras, Guerrero.
Referee - Orel Grinfeld
Grinfeld has been an official FIFA international referee since 2012. He has since worked his way up the ranks. The 37-year-old Israeli official has consistently worked top international fixtures both at club and national team level.
Last season he took charge of his first Champions’ League Group Stage matches. He has officiated matches involved Greek teams on three occasions. The first being Olympiacos 1-1 draw away to Astana in the Europa League in November 2016. Two of the three Champions’ League matches he oversaw last season featured Greek clubs. He was the man in the middle for AEK’s 3-2 loss to Benfica in the Group Stage of the competition and was also in charge of PAOK’s 3-2 home win versus Spartak Moscow last August.
Referee: Orel Grinfeld (ISR)
Assistant referees: Roy Hassan (ISR), Idan Yarkoni (ISR)
Fourth official: Eitan Shmuelevitz (ISR)
Where to Watch
Watch the match LIVE from Go Greek TV!