Olympiakos VS Paris Saint-Germain
UEFA Champions League
Venue: Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium
Date: 17th September 2013
Kick-Off: 19:45 (GMT)
You will have to go back 19 years the last time Paris Saint-Germain entered a UEFA Champions League campaign as domestic champions. The fact that we have entered this competition as second seeds is also telling at the progress made in the last two years as well as our exploits in the competition last season.
The victory over Bordeaux on Friday was described by Laurent Blanc as our ‘best’ of the campaign so far and you would have to search rigorously to find anyone who disagrees with that comment. With such little time to prepare due to the international break, Blanc jovially said that “coaches are useless”. Safe to say he was being almightily modest as it was his decision making that made the difference. He opted to keep the 4-3-3 formation which has worked a treat in the last few weeks and brought in Hervin Ongenda in place of the jaded Edinson Cavani with Lucas Moura on the opposite side as Zlatan Ibrahimovic led the line. Ongenda’s progress thus far is a testament to Blanc’s nurturing of youth, complementing a stellar blend with the experience already in the team. Lucas Digne made his debut and showed the qualities he has that resulted in his capture from Lille in the summer. With he and Maxwell vying for that spot it is safe to say competition there is in the green zone.
We looked dynamic at the Stade Chabon Delmas. We were in utter control from start to finish against a talented Bordeaux, despite their patchy form thus far. It should not deter the fact that it is a considerably difficult place to go yet Les Parisiens seemed to enjoy their visit with a fluid style that reaped acclaim. The victory sent us top momentarily but the manner of the victory sets us up nicely not only for the mammoth clash with Monaco at the Parc next week but also tonight in Greece.
I said at the time of the group stage draw that we should be happy with it. It could have been so much more difficult. That is taking nothing away from the likes of Olympiakos, Benfica or Anderlecht. They all possess quality. Nevertheless, you would much rather fancy your chances against them rather than against a Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
Tonight is a tricky one. Olympiakos are far from world beaters but their home form and that cauldron of noise that will echo from the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium will be an obstacle. They have incredibly lost only three times in all competitions in a year at home. That is a staggering statistic, losing only once in the Champions League to Schalke last September. They sit top of their domestic league having scored nine without reply in their last two. They are certainly in form.
The danger man is 25-year-old Konstantinos Mitroglou. He has scored two consecutive hat-tricks in the league and even netted on international duty for Greece in the 1-0 win away to Lichtenstein. He will lead the line alongside European traveller Javier Saviola, a name we are all familiar with after his spells with Barcelona, Madrid and Benfica. Amazing to think he is only 31.
As for ourselves, Blanc has confirmed that he will keep the 4-3-3 formation for tonight. But, it is obvious to think that it will revert to a 4-5-1 whilst defending. Centre-back Alex is out via injury so Marquinhos may be set for his debut at long last. Edinson Cavani will return you would think in place of Hervin Ongenda. Blanc is spoilt for choice as Ezequiel Lavezzi is pressing for a start and may just get the nod ahead of Lucas Moura.
It will be nice to start the group off with a win but a draw would not be the worst result in the world. This is perhaps, alongside our trip to Portugal, our most difficult tie in the group considering Olympiakos’ home record so if we come back to Paris with something then it will be a positive.