When the draws for the round of 16 in the UEFA Champions league were made in December 2013, many felt that Premier League champions Manchester United got the easiest draws of all the 4 English clubs to qualify when they pulled Greek outfit Olympiacos out of the hat. They felt it could have been much harder for United. They could have picked AC Milan or Galatasaray much tougher teams that finished second in their group and could easily have been paired with United. I beg to differ that the Greeks will be pushovers when they play United over two legs. They may be short of star names, world wide appeal or the reputation of big teams, but they are anything but pushovers. Ironically, the tag of underdogs makes them an even more dangerous opponent. With nothing to lose with almost everybody expecting Manchester United to do them over, they’ll likely play in an inhibited fashion, without nervousness.
- For those who think the Greeks are not a formidable enough opponent, this is what they boast of in recent times. Since the 2003/2004 season, Olympiacos have won 8 of the last 10 Greek titles and currently in the league this season have won 24 out of 26 league games. More menacingly, they are unbeaten in the league in over a year. They qualified from Group C in the group stage of the champions league when they pipped last season’s Europa league runners up Benfica to second place to finish behind the swaggering Noveau Riche Paris St Germain. Still think they are pushovers? I don’t think so.
Manchester United’s season so far has the feel of a movie script. A topsy turvy roller coaster of a season. Whenever there’s been a slight improvement in fortunes, there seems to be a succession of setbacks for David Moyes and his men and just like a suspense filled movie, you never can tell which way United’s season is going or how it will end. If United’s domestic campaign has so far been shambolic, their European adventure under David Moyes has been more in line with standards expected. They topped group A securing 14 points leaving the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad trailing behind. They conceded just 3 goals in their 6 group games and David Moyes would be hoping for more of that kind of discipline in these decisive knock out stages.
- Team news: Olympiacos have striker Javier Saviola injured and with Kostas Mitroglou sold to Fulham, they are a bit short up front but can call on Marko Scepovic to step in. United have Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Nani out for this one and have Juan Mata ineligible to play because he is cup tied. Darren Fletcher will be expected to start in midfield.
- Head to head: United have won all 4 of their previous meetings with the last one in October 2002 when they triumphed 3-2 with goals from Juan Sebastian Veron, Paul Scholes and Laurent Blanc.
- Prediction: Footynyx says 1-1