Manchester United will be confident of securing a good result when they travel to Greece to face Olympiakos in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie (Tuesday, 19:45 GMT, live on ITV).
Olympiakos come into the match on the back of a 19-match unbeaten run in all competitions and have a commanding lead in the Greek Superleague, 20 points clear of their nearest challengers, with 74 points from 24 wins, two draws and zero defeats.
Michel’s side qualified for the knockout stages by finishing second in Group C on 10 points, edging out Benfica by virtue of a better head-to-head record. They will be looking to progress beyond the first knockout stage for the first time in the Champions League era, having previously fallen to Benfica, Bordeaux and Juventus at this juncture.
Olympiakos have good options in attack despite the departure of prolific striker Konstantinos Mitroglou to Fulham in January. Michael Olaitan and Arsenal-loanee Joel Campbell offer pace and trickery from wide areas, Alejandro Dominguez and Javier Saviola are wily operators behind a main striker, while Marko Scepovic scored a hat-trick in their 4-0 win at OFI on Saturday.
The reigning Greek champions have an excellent defensive record in domestic football, having conceded just nine times in 26 matches, but were a little less secure during the Champions League group stage, conceding six times in two defeats to Paris Saint-Germain. They are relatively solid but look susceptible to pace, particularly on the counter attack.
Michel will be without Saviola for this match after the former Argentinian international picked up a leg injury half an hour into the weekend victory over OFI. Defender Dimitrios Siovas also looks set to miss out.
Man Utd arrive in Greece on the back of just their third victory in 11 matches since the turn of the year, a 2-0 win away to Crystal Palace on Saturday. They are sixth in the Premier League table with 45 points from 13 wins, six draws and eight defeats.
The three-time Champions League winners progressed to the last 16 by winning Group A with a undefeated record of four wins and two draws, including a highly impressive 5-0 win away to Bayer Leverkusen. With a top four finish now just a distant hope, David Moyes (pictured above) will see this competition as his opportunity to make a mark in his first season at the helm.
Moyes played a front four of Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie on Saturday and although there were times when Mata and Rooney both occupied the same space, it is quartet that offers much promise given time to gel. Most pertinently, it offers variety and creativity, two things that have been lacking in United’s attacking play this season.
United have kept a clean sheet in three of their last five fixtures and also did so in four of their six Champions League group stage matches. They still struggle when faced with quick and incisive attacks on the break, but when set in position have proved themselves capable of defending solidly, as they did in shutting out Arsenal in a home win and away draw.
Moyes will be without the injured Danny Welbeck (knee) and Nani (hamstring) for this match, while Johnny Evans (calf), Phil Jones (hip) and Rafael (head) are all doubtful. Mata is cup-tied after appearing in the competition for Chelsea earlier this season, with either Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young set to deputise.
Olympiakos v Man Utd Betting Tips
These sides have met four times during the Champions League era, with United emerging victorious on all occasions, including 3-2 and 2-0 wins away in Greece. Olympiakos have faced Arsenal in the group stage of three of their last five Champions League campaigns, winning all three home matches but losing each of the reverse fixtures in England.
Olympiakos are the clear class of the field in the Greek Superleague and it is therefore difficult to use their domestic form as any sort of barometer for their ability to compete at Champions League level. In their crunch group stage matches against Benfica they were solid and well organised, and they certainly have some dangerous attacking players.
In a season in which little has gone to plan domestically, Man Utd have been excellent in the Champions League. The atmosphere is sure to be intimidating, but United have already shown themselves capable of defending deep and counter-attacking incisively in this competition and will be relatively confident of at least avoiding defeat.
- Back Manchester United draw no bet @ best odds of 8/15 with BetVictor, Coral or Stan James. The bet pays out if Man Utd win, while your stake is returned if the match ends in a draw
- We expect to see quite a tight match, with neither team wanting to give much away. There are good attacking players on both teams, but both like to defend close to their own goal, with United’s group stage draws away to Shakhtar Donetsk (1-1) and Real Sociedad (0-0) likely instructive. Back under 2.5 goals @ 8/11 with Ladbrokes or Stan James.