Thrylos looking for strong start in UCL
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - GROUP D (MATCHDAY 1)
|Olympiacos||2:45 PM (EST)||Sporting Lisbon|
Georgios Tsitsonis from AGONAsport.com brings you a full preview for Olympiacos' opening Champions League matchup against Sporting Lisbon.
Olympiacos seek to maximize home field advantage when they come up against Sporting Lisbon in the opening match of their 2017/18 Champions’ League campaign. Considering that the other two teams in Group D are the likes of Barcelona and Juventus, it’s imperative that Besnik Hasi’s men begin well. If the Greek champions are to have any chance at even finishing third in this group then it’s difficult to see that occurring without the three points on Tuesday evening at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
It won’t be at all easy for the Erythrolefki though as Jorge Jesus’ side have begun the season in sparkling form. The Lions have started the new season with six wins and one draw in all competitions. It’s their free-scoring style that Olympiacos are hoping to stop. Sporting have scored 18 goals already with the trio of Bas Dost, Gelson Martins, and Bruno Fernandes accounting for 13 of those goals.
In the 2016/17 Champions’ League, Sporting came fourth in their group behind
Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid CF and Legia Warsaw. The club qualified for this season’s tournament by finishing third in Portugal last season and getting through a Playoff tie against Steaua Bucharest in August. This is a team that looks vastly improved as compared to last season when they were decent, but lacking that little bit extra to make the difference.
There was no real weekend issues for the Greek champs. The only real absence is that of central defender Jagos Vuckovic who is in the midst of an injury lay-off. Hasi seemed pleased with the display of Bjorn Engel’s against Xanthi and the Belgian center-back will feature against the Portuguese side, most likely next to Alaixys Romao.
Cristiano Piccini limped off at the weekend in the away victory against Feirense. The Italian right-back will miss out after being forced off at the weekend. His place in the starting eleven is set to be taken by Stefan Ristovski, the on-loan Rijeka defender.
There is good news on the other defensive flank though for Sporting. Fabio Coentrao is set to return to left-back after missing the last two matches with a knock.
Olympiacos: Kapino, Elabdellaoui, Engels, Romao, Figueiras, Ofoe, Gillet, Marin, Seba, Carcela, Djurdjevic
Sporting Lisbon: Patrício, Silva, Coates, Mathieu, Ristovski, Carvalho, Battaglia, Acuna, Martins, Fernandes, Dost
9/9/17 Xanthi-Olympiacos 1-1 (Greek SuperLeague)
8/26/17 Lamia-Olympiacos 0-1 (Greek Super League)
8/22/17 Rijeka-Olympiacos 0-1 (Champions’ League Playoffs)
8/19/17 Olympiacos-Larisa 4-1 (Greek Super League)
8/16/17 Olympiacos-Rijeka 2-1 (Champions’ League Playoffs)
9/10/17 Feirense-Sporting 2-3 (Portuguese Primeira Liga)
8/27/17 Sporting-Estoril 2-1 (Portuguese Primeira Liga)
8/23/17 Steaua Bucharest-Sporting 1-5 (Champions’ League Playoffs)
8/19/17 Vitoria-Sporting 0-5 (Portuguese Primeira Liga)
8/15/17 Sporting-Steaua Bucharest 0-0 (Champions’ League Playoffs)
This will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Olympiacos have a positive record against Portuguese opposition in Europe. The Erythrolefki won eight times, drawn twice, and lost five against Portuguese teams in Europe. The club’s supporters will like the fact that Olympiacos have won seven of their eight home matches against clubs from Portugal.
Sporting have played against Greek opponents only once. This was back in the 2004 UEFA Cup, where they defeated Panionios 4-1 in the Group Stage of the competition
Olympiacos cannot possibly underestimate Sporting on Tuesday night. The Portuguese side look like a very strong team who can cause anyone problems. The key may be whether Hasi can find a way to consistently test a backline that has had its questions. There is no denying the dynamism the Lisbon club have in attack. It’s at the back however that teams will feel they can get at them.
Olympiacos have their own issues in defense. WIth Panagiotis Retsos gone and Jagos Vuckovic injured, the duo of Engels and Romao are slated to play for only the second time together. It will be a massive test for those two to contain the Sporting attack especially considering the little time they have played as a center-back partnership.
Make no mistake, this is a final for Olympiacos. While most observers give the Piraeus club no shot at coming through this group, there is a sense that a victory in the opener could at least make third place a possibility. It all amounts to a hugely important match for the Greek team which could largely dictate the fate of their European season.