Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus
16th September 2015, 20:45CET
The Champions League is back and Group F offers one of the most interesting encounters among Wednesdaya s fixtures as last seasona s semifinalists Bayern Munich travel to Piraeus to face 42-time Greek champions Olympiacos in the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis for their opening Champions League fixture.
Both the sides have rich domestic history and have given the spectators a great taste of entertaining football over the past few seasons on the continental front. Both Bayern and Olympiacos step onto the pitch on Wednesday with undefeated domestic records this season and will look to maintain the same on Europea s big stage as well.
Despite being on the losing side, Olympiacos have been involved in some classic Champions League matches like the final Group A tie in 2004 against Liverpool where a Steven Gerrard led Reds’ side overcame the Greeks in the final minutes, and the match against Manchester United in 2013 where a Robin Van Persie inspired United fought their way back after a 2-0 defeat in the first leg.
Meanwhile, five time Champions of Europe Bayern Munich have also been treating their audience to some classic styles of football over the past few years. As the curtain raises over Europe’s grandest stage, here is a look at the team news and the odds at stake involving the German and Greek Champions.
Team news and Tactics
Firstly, Pep Guardiola has centre-back issues. But so far the issue has not been in the limelight as the Catalan orchestrated a brilliant 3-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 3 of the Bundesliga without a notable centre-back on the team sheet.
Last weeka s dramatic win over Augsburg also involved just Jerome Boateng at centre-back as Mehdi Benatia, Holger Badstuber and Javi Martinez sit on the sidelines due to injuries; one of the biggest tests for Guardiolaa s men is to now maintain the same level of composure in the Champions League.
The biggest strength for Bayern is their highly efficient midfield which not only has quality players, but also has the team spirit instilled in it. Their control over the ball has not dropped a bit from last season and their domination in the central areas of the pitch as well as in creative areas has been commendable to say the least. But under new coach Marco Silva, Olympiacos are capable of handing Pep Guardiola an early shock and Bayern should be wary of the surprise results Olympiacos have raked up over the past decade against big clubs.
Bayern boast an impressive record against Greek sides as they have not lost against any Greek club in seven outings, a record Philipp Lahm & co will look to maintain. The Bavarian giants will be looking for a good start in the Champions League, which could also boost their confidence to compete against the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Vfl Wolfsburg for the Bundesliga title.
Probable Line-ups:(3-4-3): Neuer; Rafinha, Boateng, Alaba; Alonso, Lahm, Vidal, Thiago; Muller, Lewandowski, Costa
Wednesdaya s hosts Olympiacos are no newcomers to the competition and they know their trade well when it comes to the group stages of the Champions League. For instance, last seasona s group stage victories over Juventus and Atletico Madrid show how dangerous the Greek side can be at this stage of the competition.
They are a team that sense the complacency that creeps into the opposition camp and use it to their advantage. Even though they have not progressed beyond the quarter-finals in the Champions League, their bravery in taking the game to their opponents have earned them plaudits over the years.
They also boast an undefeated start to the season with three victories in as many games, scoring 8 goals in the process and conceding once. Even though Bayern are the stronger team, Olympiacos have an impressive home record in the Champions League as some of the major scalps include Manchester United, Benfica, Juventus and Atletico Madrid.
Midfielder Luka Milivojevi , whose vital goal handed Olympiacos their second straight victory of the season, is currently serving a two game ban after receiving a red card in the Europa League match against FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk last season. Kostas Fortounis will be a key man for the Erythrolefki as his two substitute goals have helped Marco Silvaa s men to the top of the table in the Greek Super League.
The Thrylos also have an experienced superstar in the form of Esteban Cambiasso in their ranks, who has first hand experience of winning against both Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich in 2010 with Inter Milan.
Probable Line-ups(4-3-3): Roberto; Elabdellaoui, Da Costa, Siovas, Masuaku; Cambiasso, Kasami, Dom nguez; HernA?ni, Pardo, Ideye
Player To Watch Out For
Despite having a relatively quiet 2014/15 season in the Champions League, the Poland captain is always an asset to any team when playing in Europe. His runs often stretch the opposition defences and allow other attackers to enter the scoring fray and since Guardiola looks to crowd the opposition half, Bayern will benefit from Lewandowskia s movement.
Lewandowskia s form is another factor as he started the 2015/16 campaign with four goals to his name and has scored crucial goals against Hoffenheim and Augsburg last week. On the international front, he leads the Euro 2016 Qualifiers with 10 goals and looks set for a solid campaign with Die Roten. Olympiacos will also have the additional responsibility to break his telepathic understanding with Thomas Muller, who has the knack of scoring in the big tournaments such as the Champions League.
Olympiacos 0 – 1 Bayern Munich
Counting on the impressive undefeated streak that Olympiacos have at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Guardiola will have to be careful about playing a high-line defence to exert pressure on the midfield. Olympiacos will defend deep but the way they will respond to Guardiolaa s style is yet to be seen.
The ability Bayern have shown in the past few weeks to grind out difficult victories will give them the psychological edge over Olympiacos, and a goal from either Thomas Muller or Robert Lewandowski is likely to earn the Bavarians all three points in what will be a tight game.