Josh Mart and Charles Stone preview PSG’s first Champions League group stage match against continental veterans Olympiakos:
Just a week after the international break, Europe’s elite club competition kicks off with the group stage, a first test for the continent’s finest squads. PSG have recruited well over the summer, bringing in the Likes of Edinson ‘El Matador’ Cavani, Marquinhos and Lucas Digne and they will hope that, with these additions, they can progress even further in all competitions with a quite obvious focus being placed upon Champions League glory by QSI.
PSG will be relatively pleased with their group that gives them a potentially straightforward advancement to the knockout stages. Alongside the likes of Benfica, Anderlecht and first round opponents Olympiakos they have managed to avoid any big guns, despite being drawn from Pot 2 on UEFA coefficient rankings.
Tuesday’s opponents Olympiakos, will provide a difficult test for Laurent Blanc’s men who have been criticised for their performances in Ligue 1 thus far, with just a draw against lowly Ajaccio and late goals to secure victory against newly promoted Guingamp. However, after last night’s comfortable win away at Bordeaux, ‘Les Parisiens’ now sat at the top of the table last Friday night. Olympiakos have started the new Greek Super League season in fine form, winning the opening three games and scoring 8 and conceding just 1 in the process. Coach Michel is likely to be pretty upbeat about his sides chances in Piraeus, as any side facing a trip to Greece should know all about the hostile and intimidating atmosphere they will face. Olympiakos have also strengthened over the summer adding talented youngsters such as Vladimir Weiss and Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell to the squad, as well as the evergreen Javier Saviola who moved from cash strapped Malaga.
PSG’s recent trips to the most Eastern parts of Europe have generally been successful, with wins away at both Dinamo Zagreb and Dynamo Kiev in last season’s competition. However, Michel’s side have a good home record in continental competitions. Among others Arsenal and Montpellier fell to the Greeks in their 2012/2013 European campaign. Michel will know the importance of winning the home games if his team are to have a chance of making the knockout stages, yet beating a team with the talent and firepower of PSG will take some doing.
One would expect PSG to lineup in a 4-3-3 formation which they have been tweaking since the beginning of this season. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and one of Edinson Cavani or Zlatan Ibrahimovic are likely to feature in the starting XI. There is of course the possibility that Laurent Blanc switches formation again to accommodate Edinson Cavani playing behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic in more of a 4-2-3-1. Olympiakos will most probably start with a conventional 4-3-2-1 with Saviola and Campbell behind either Olaitan or Mitroglou. The movement of that front 3 could cause PSG a few problems. Olympiakos need to find the balance between defence and attack as PSG have struggled against teams who have parked the bus and hoped to get lucky on the counter attack this season. This strategy would require Olympiakos to be patient and ready to face drawn out periods of the match without possession, something their loyal home fans will disapprove of.
Despite Olympiakos’ best efforts to make the Karaiskakis Stadium impregnable, PSG’s team relishes the big occasions. The Greeks must surprise Les Parisiens from the word go with an early goal to have a chance of taking the maximum points on Wednesday night. Whether or not PSG will allow Olympiakos much of the ball depends on the tenacity the French side show. Ultimately, the star quality that PSG have in their armoury should simply overpower Τhrylos (as they are affectionately known).
Prediction: Olympiakos 1-3 PSG
PSG: Alex (thigh) and Javier Pastore (thigh) both miss out
Olympiakos: Left-back Gaëtan Bong (right ankle) and right-back Leandro Salino (pulled leg muscle) set to miss out.