Andy Brassell on European Football: Olympiakos regroup before Manchester City visit

Kostas Fortounis of Olympiacos
Kostas Fortounis could again play a role for Olympiacos after his derby winner at the weekend

The Greek champions are depleted as they welcome Manchester City, writes Andy Brassell, while Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona face major tests of nerve...

"Pedro Martins’ team are hardly in a position to target City’s current defensive vulnerabilities – especially with inspirational playmaker Mathieu Valbuena already out with an injury."

Olympiakos endure tough build-up to City

Hosting Manchester City is hard at the best of times, but Olympiakos have had a far from ideal preparation for their return match with Pep Guardiola's side. A lot of big clubs had their noses put of joint by the recent international window but the Greek champions even wrote to FIFA last week to complain about being "highly concerned and damaged by the non-compliance" of national associations to COVID-19 safety protocols during the African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Olympiakos had reason to feel hard done by. Both Youssef El Arabi and Ahmed Hassan were infected on international duty and have left them with a real quandary up front. Kostas Fortounis was pushed into a more advanced role for Saturday's derby with Panathinaikos and responded by scoring the winner, but Pedro Martins' team are hardly in a position to target City's current defensive vulnerabilities - especially with inspirational playmaker Mathieu Valbuena already out with an injury.

What Martins does have at his disposal is experience and toughness, in the shape of Rúben Semedo and Yann M'Vila among others. They gave City problems for a good spell in the second-half in Manchester, but it's not difficult to imagine that they'll just try and keep this one tight and hope to grind out a result, with a second-place finish in the group hard to achieve but not impossible.

Back under 1.5 goals between Olympiacos and Manchester City at 54/1

Tuchel facing moment of truth against compatriots

With pressure piling on Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel, Friday night's second-half implosion at Monaco could not have been more ill-timed. PSG led 2-0 at the break but eased off in the second-half and were schooled by a vintage Cesc Fàbregas cameo, as he created one goal and scored the winner from the penalty spot.

Even though it allowed Lille, Lyon and Monaco themselves to close the gap at the top of Ligue 1, nobody expects it to affect the ultimate destination of the title but it was less the result and more what the performance implied. PSG's second-half display was lacking in intensity and organisation - in one of the domestic matches that really should demand those qualities - and barely augured well for a crucial Tuesday night fixture with Leipzig.


Having reached last season's final, PSG know that defeat to Julian Nagelsmann's side would put their chances of even getting out of the group stage in grave danger. They had the first fixture in Germany in the palm of their hand and switched off, which now means they have to make the running in the capital this week - playing into the hands of Leipzig, who will welcome the chance to counterattack. The absences of Presnel Kimpembe and Idrissa Gueye, banned after their red cards in the first game, will make it harder for PSG to shut the back door in a game crucial to Tuchel's immediate future.

Back the draw between PSG and Leipzig at 4.77/2

Barcelona wary of plucky Dynamo

It was another dismal weekend for Barcelona in La Liga, losing against a title rival for the second time this season as they went down to Atlético Madrid, having already lost El Clásico to Real Madrid. Ronald Koeman's side were flattered, if anything, by their 1-0 defeat - a third loss in eight league games - which leaves them in 12th.

The thing is, it could easily get worse. Barça picked up more injuries, with Sergi Roberto out for two months with a thigh complaint and knee damage to Gerard Piqué potentially compromising his involvement for the remainder of the season. Crisis is an overused word but that's where the Catalan giants are defensively - and remember, they needed Marc-André Ter Stegen to pull out a fine performance in the first fixture with Dynamo Kiev at Camp Nou, three weeks ago, to make sure of victory. With the casualties as they are, Koeman has elected to leave Leo Messi and Frenkie De Jong at home.


Dynamo coach Mircea Lucescu has warned that Barça will be more wary of his side for Tuesday's return in the Ukrainian capital, but they have a number of players back after COVID-19 decimated their squad for the first game. They maintained their lead at the top of the Ukrainian Premier League by beating Inhulets 2-0 at the weekend - a match in which the experienced midfielder Denys Harmash, who has missed most of the season, scored his first goal of the campaign.

Back the draw between Dynamo Kiev and Barcelona at 5.14/1

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