Old Trafford, Manchester
March 19, 2014; 19:45 BST
Manchester United host Olympiakos in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie at Old Trafford tomorrow. The reigning Premier League champions have a tough task at hand after conceding two goals in the first leg and will need to put out their best performance so far this season in order to beat Olympiakos tomorrow.
David Moyes is under a lot of pressure currently and his future at the club has come under a lot of speculations following a disappointing season so far. They are coming into this game on the back of an embarrassing loss against arch rivals Liverpool and will have to dust themselves up quickly for this game as they look to prolong their stay in Europe.
Olympiakos on the other hand have wrapped up the domestic title with a comfortable 2-0 win over Panthrakikos on Saturday. The win provided them with a an unassailable 18 points lead at the top of the table as with both PAOK and Atromitos dropping points in their respective games. They will come into this match feeling confident about getting a positive result at Old Trafford considering current performances of their opponent. But Olympiakos don’t have pleasant record on this ground and have conceded seven goals in their last two visits back in 2001 and 2002, although David Moyes has already broken some unwanted records this season.
Team news and tactics
David Moyes does have some injury concerns to contain with, especially in defence, ahead of this crucial fixture. Nani, whose last appearance for the Red Devils was in the 0-1 loss against Newcastle United back in December, continues his spell at the side-lines, although he could return to first team action in the upcoming Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Javier Hernandez, who will also miss out this game, has returned to training and is expected to regain full fitness by next week.
But the main concern for David Moyes is the possible absence of both Jonny Evans and Chis Smalling for this fixture. The duo missed United’s training session earlier today and both are also like to be unavailable for the match against West Ham United this weekend. Juan Mata is ineligible for this game having already participated in the Champions League for Chelsea earlier this season.
Moyes is expected to make two changes to the line-up he used against Liverpool in their last game. Rio Ferdinand, who has been in the news off late for the wrong reasons, is expected to start this match in the center of the defence alongside Nemaja Vidic as Phil Jones drops down to the bench. In attack, Juan Mata will be replaced by Antonio Valencia on the right wing, while Adnan Januzaj could keep his place and start only his second Champions League game for the Manchester side.
Manchester United’s defence came under a lot of criticism for their performance against Liverpool, where they gave away three penalties, and they will need to improve on that performance if United are to harbour any hopes of turning this tie around at Old Trafford. United have conceded five goals in their last two home games and have kept only three clean sheets in their last 11 games in this venue. If they concede once again tomorrow, then this tie will surely be beyond their reach. In attack they haven’t been firing in all cylinders as well and have scored just five goals in their last five matches in all competitions – something they will have to change against Olympiakos.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): De Gea (GK); Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fellaini; Valencia, Rooney, Januzaj; van Persie
Like David Moyes, Michel also have a lot of fitness concerns to contain with ahead of this game. Ariel Ibagaza, who picked up an injury earlier this month, will remain at the side-lines and he is joined by 21-year-old forward Michael Olaitan, whose last appearance was in the first leg of this tie against Manchester United last month.
There are also doubts about the availability of Ivan Marcano, who was substituted in the second half of the 0-3 defeat against Panathinaikos with an injury earlier this month. It is yet to be seen whether the defender has recovered from the knock as they travel to Old Trafford. Dimitrios Slovas and Javier Saviola are also unlikely to feature in this match and the duo struggle with their fitness. But the good news for Olympiakos is the return of Nelson Valdez to full fitness.
With the league done and dusted, Michel had the opportunity to rest most of his key players ahead of this game. He is expected to make as many as five changes to the side that he fielded in the 2-0 win over Panthrakikos on Saturday. Leandro Salino, Kostas Manolas and Gaetan Bong will return at the back with Avraam Papadopoulos likely to retain his place in the absence of Marcano.
Delvin Ndinga, who was an unused substitute in that match, will return to the center of the midfield in the pivot alongside Giannis Maniatis. David Fuster, who came on as a substitute against Panthrakikos and scored a penalty, will start ahead of Hernan Perez, who started in the first leg. Valdez will lead the line in absence of Olaitan and Saviola.
Michel’s tactics won’t be too complex, with a two-goal lead in hand to protect, he will ask his side to sit deep and allow Manchester United all the possession before hitting them on the break with use of Joel Campbell’s pace and get at a relatively slow United central defence partnership of Ferdinand and Vidic.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Roberto (GK); Salino, Papadopoulos, Manolas, Bong; Maniatis, Ndinga; Campbell, Dominguez, Fuster; Valdez
Players to watch-out for: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United); Joel Campbell (Olympiakos)
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Olympiakos