Olympiakos v Manchester United (19.45 GMT)
It’s Olympiakos v Manchester United tonight and are without defenders Phil Jones and Jonny Evans for their Champions League last-16 first-leg match against Olympiakos at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
Jones (hip) and Evans (calf) did not travel, while Nani is also sidelined with a hamstring injury. Record signing Juan Mata is cup-tied after playing in the competition with Chelsea, but Rafael and Danny Welbeck are both fit after injury.
Olympiakos’s top scorer Javier Saviola is out with a thigh problem. Kostas Mitroglou was sold to Fulham in January and Marko Scepovic is cup-tied, so 21-year-old Nigerian Michael Olaitan will lead the line.
It is unknown whether January signing Nelson Valdez is fit to play. “He’s alive and that’s all I am telling you,” said Olympiakos coach Michel when asked about the fitness of the Paraguayan.
The Greek champions are unbeaten in their domestic league and hold a 20-point lead at the top from PAOK. “It will be far from easy,” said United boss David Moyes of Tuesday’s match.
“Olympiakos came through a difficult group with Benfica, Paris St-Germain [and Anderlecht]. “They have a great home record so it will be a difficult night.”
What’s the chance…..
David Moyes walks up the steps at the Estadio da Luz on May 24 and holds the Champions League trophy aloft. After all the derision received throughout his first season as manager of Manchester United, he’d have the last laugh. It won’t happen, will it? Surely not.
Football is a strange game, though. It’s enough to think of Liverpool in 2005 and Chelsea in 2012. Both claimed the biggest prize in club football despite disappointing campaigns in the Premier League which ended with them finishing outside the top four.
United’s performances on the continent have been one of the few bright spots Moyes can point to this season. That’s rather curious really isn’t it considering one of the principal question marks lingering over him following his appointment as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor was his lack of pedigree in Europe.
A 5-0 win away at Bayer Leverkusen was arguably their best display under his management, though within the context of this desperately disappointing season it feels like an exception.
That sensation was only enhanced last week. Leverkusen may have held Bayern Munich to a draw this season and have beaten Dortmund. They may still be second in the Bundesliga, but they have a habit of crumbling in the Champions League.
Thrashed 4-0 on their own patch by Paris Saint-Germain last Tuesday, that result takes some of the shine off the one United achieved at the BayArena back in late November.
Still you can only beat what’s put in front of you and that’s what Moyes and his players have done thus far. The draw for the Round of 16 appeared kind too. United could have done a lot worse than Olympiacos.
Though 4-0 winners at OFI Crete at the weekend, a result that sent them 23 points clear at the top of the Greek league, they sold star striker Kostas Mitroglou to Fulham in the winter and Javier Saviola is injured. That would appear todiminish their threat significantly. With that in mind, back United to win at 2.22.
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