18:45 GMT, 18th of October 2017, Camp Nou, Barcelona
Barcelona will look to continue their flying start to the season against an Olympiacos side that has lost its first two games of Group D and has had an average start to its domestic campaign with three wins, two losses and two draws. Ernesto Valverde’s side go into this game the favourites not only for this game but also the whole group.
Since their La Liga campaign started, Barcelona have been on fire. They’ve been winning games convincingly and, despite losing Neymar in the summer, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have continued on unabated. Despite the fact that most of their legue games at this point of the season have been games that should have been wins on paper, in their biggest challenge so far against Juventus, last season’s finalists, they delivered a masterful performance with Messi grabbing two goals.
For Olympiacos to have any hope of progression to the knock-out stages, they have to get something from this game. Losing away to Juventus in Matchday 2 was expected, but losing to Sporting Lisbon at home in the opening fixture now means the Greek club now have a mountain to climb.
Barcelona will feel positive going into this match, the first of a double header against Olympiacos: two wins against the group stragglers will mean that they will go into their away trip to Juventus on Matchday 5 only needing a point.
Last Time Out
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Barcelona (La Liga)
Last weekend, Barcelona went to the Wanda Metropolitano and got a valuable point against Diego Simeone’s gritty Atletico Madrid side. Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to make two big saves early on against a lively Antoine Griezmann before conceding in the 21st minute from a Saul Niguez right-footed shot outside the box which nestled into the bottom right corner of the goal.
As the match went on, Barcelona improved especially in the second half. In the 82nd minute, they got a deserved equaliser when a quick spell of possession found Sergi Roberto alone on the right. He crossed the ball to a lurking Suarez in the box who headed the ball past Jan Oblak into the goal.
While a draw was a fair result, Barcelona did enough to win the game. The Catalan giants had 69% of the possession and managed to get 15 shots off with seven of them on target compared to Atletico's five shots with four of them on target. Their first draw of the season still leaves them on top of La Liga after eight league games, four points ahead of second-place Valencia and five ahead of Real Madrid who are in third position.
Panionios 3-4 Olympiacos (Greek Superleague)
In an exciting match against Panionios, Olympiacos got their league campaign back on track with an away win after going winless in their last four league games. The home side got on the scoreboard first when Srdjan Spiridonovic chipped in a goal past a surging Silvio Proto who was stood off his line. Olympiacos took the lead with three unanswered goals in the first half through Pape Abou Cisse in the 19th minute and Karim Ansarifard in the 37th and 45th minutes. Neither Cisse and Ansarifard are not in Olympiacos' Champions League squad.
The game had a few wild twists in the last 10 minutes starting with Panionios receiving a penalty which Masoud Shojaei converted in the 83rd minute. Panionios equalised a minute later through Fiorin Durmishaj who was left unmarked in the box. Fortunately for Olympiacos, they managed to turn the game around when they got a penalty late in the game. Konstantinos Fortounis converted it calmly and cooly. The result puts Olympiacos at 11 points after seven games in the league, four points behind first-placed PAOK.
Barcelona are likely to stick with their recently reliable 4-4-2 formation.
With Rafinha's ongoing injury woes, Nelson Semedo has solidified his place at right-back in the Champions League and has been ever-present for the Catalans in the league, making his inclusion likely.
Other than that, Barcelona are missing Ousmane Dembele to a long-term thigh tear and Arda Turan to a metatarsal injury.
On this season's showing, Takis Lemonis will set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation. They will likely shape up to be a little more defensively minded than they usually are in the Greek Super League.
With none of their players unavailable, expect Felipe Pardo and Seba, both attack-minded players, to sit back and function as part of a five-man midfield.
At the other end of the pitch, Emmanuel Emenike will try to convert on the counter-attack or from a mistake from the Barcelona defence.
Key Battle: Lionel Messi vs Silvio Proto
This game will produce plenty of attacking opportunities for the Blaugrana and that means another potential goal onslaught by Lionel Messi. The Argentine, who single-handedly saved Argentina from World Cup elimination last week in Ecuador, has been in fine form for Barcelona. He already has 11 goals in La Liga play and scored two goals in their Champions League Group D opener against Juventus. Olympiacos would need a magical defensive display to prevent him from playing a part in the game.
Silvio Proto will need to be on his A-game if he wants to prevent Messi from getting on the scoresheet. He did not play in Olympiacos' first Champions League in this group against Sporting but was present in the team that conceded two goals against Juventus in Matchday 2. In that game, he made five saves but he only managed a passing accuracy of 32%. That is a statistic that will need to improve for Proto if he wants to avoid conceding.
Can Olympiacos park the bus and succeed?
Olympiacos will approach this game with an ultra-defensive mentality and rightfully so: they are facing one the best teams in the world and one of the greatest players of all time. Having conceded three goals at the weekend against a mid-table side in the Super League, the prospects of a draw don't look too likely. However, the Greek side are in desperate need for points after two straight losses in the group stage. Despite the fact that Barcelona were thought to be in a crisis mode, their results have been impressive so far. Olympiacos will hope that their opponents have an off day or a crisis on the field.
Barcelona's midfield, orchestrated by Sergio Busquets, will have to break down a defensive Olympiacos midfield that will sit deeper than usual. It is pivotal that this low block is broken down as early as possible so that the Greek side are not able to gain confidence from their defensive capabilities.
Because they will most likely keep a high defensive line to suffocate Olympiacos' play, Barcelona must also make sure not to give the ball away easily and allow their opponents a chance to counter-attack. Rakitic or Paulinho alongside Busquets should do the job.
PREDICTION: Barcelona 4-0 Olympiacos
This match could be a goal-fest as an in-form Barcelona take on the group strugglers. Olympiacos could be phased by the pressure of playing in the Camp Nou and expect to see Messi and Suarez on the scoresheet. Given their domestic woes, it is a stretch to expect Olympiacos to give Barcelona a run for their money. Barcelona will be looking forward to securing a place in the knockout stage and so Olympiacos would be best keeping an eye on a third-place spot to get into the Europa League Round of 32.
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