Olympiacos v Manchester United
Wow. Going to Olympiacos and winning. That’s really difficult, isn’t it?
Like teaching Luis Suarez not to collapse in a heap every time he feels the slightest contact or listening to a James Blunt album in full, it’s almost impossible.
That may be the impression you’ve got if you’ve read some stats about Manchester United’s opponents in the Champions League Round of 16. And yes – if you spin the stats, squint slightly and forget the Greek Super League boasts about decent teams – the stats can looks good.
The Greek side have dominated things domestically. Olympiacos:
- have won 15 of the last 17 championships
- are looking for their fourth Greek title in a row
- have gone through 3/4 of the season undefeated with a goal difference of +69
In Europe, their Piraeus home is fabled as the classic ‘not a place anyone wants to visit’ cliché. There’s a valid reason for that. Over the last ten seasons, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Monaco are among the big names who have departed Greece with nothing more than a fridge magnet of the Parthenon.
The Erythrolefkoi have built up a decent Champions League home record overall and a very decent one when looking specifically at when English teams come to town.
On the face of it, it looks like seriously bad news for United. No Premier League team has gone to Olympiacos in the Champions League over the last ten years and won. That’s the headline fact and no amount of shamelessly manipulating the stats can deny it.
There is a a major caveat that comes with those stats however.
Four wins and no defeats against Premier League opposition is a tidy record, but most of that is down to the fact they’ve owned Arsenal.
Three of the four wins came in games against the Gunners and rather incredibly, all three of those games were dead rubbers for the Gunners – coming in the last round of group fixtures with progress from the groups already guaranteed.
That leaves one draw against Chelsea (fair play, but it was the season Jose was sacked) and a win over Liverpool in the season the Reds consistently defied the odds to win the Champions League
The truth is, they lose at home plenty of the time – not even to especially good teams.
Despite the imposing record against Premier League teams over the last decade and some victories over some of Europe’s giants, the Greek side drop plenty of games to less illustrious opponents. Without wanting to offend the good people of Bordeaux, Rosenborg or Schalke, they rarely qualify to be included as Europe’s elite yet they went to Greece and won.
Other than that, it’s still not exactly a fortress. PSG battered them 4-1 in Piraeus earlier this season and they’ve had plenty of other poor results on their own patch in recent seasons:
- 2012/13 – L 1-2 Schalke
- 2011/12 – L 0-1 Marseille
- 2009/10 – L 0-1 Bordeaux
- 2006/07 – L 2-4 Valencia
- 2006/07 – L 0-1 Roma
- 2005/06 – L 1-3 Rosenborg
- 2005/06 – L 1-4 Lyon
- 2003/04 – L 1-2 Juventus
The Greeks are worthy of respect. But so are the Dog and Duck XI with the way United have played at times this season. United showed on Saturday that they can overcome good, but unexceptional rivals with the minimum of fuss and this assignment belongs in that category.
Despite being Champions League regulars, Olympiacos aren’t among Europe’s elite and as such, United are capable of victory. If Moyes oversees another defeat, the reality it, he’ll Greek of failure even more.