In recent seasons, matchday 5 of the UEFA Champions League group stage have been insignificant results for Bayern Munich. The big matches are already in the bag, and the group victory is all but secured. The road to another top seed is a little more uncertain now, Olympiacos nipping at Bayern's heals.
A very strong home team, Olympiacos can appreciate the superhuman vibes the Allianz Arena gives off when Bayern plays there. That said, Olympiacos have come up with big results on the road in the Champions League, most recently one in the Emirates. The Greek giants will have to fair better than Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg though, both top German clubs who the Allianz army lambasted in their color-changing coliseum.
Both of these clubs have yet to lose domestically, which provides a very strong undercard match in this set of Champions League fixtures.
The Match (4th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Jonas Eriksson
FC Bayern: 2 W, 0 D, 0 L – 2 YC
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Television and Streaming:
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Canada: TSN1 | HD
UK: BT Sport Extra, BT Sport Live Streaming
Germany: Sky Sports 3 | HD, Sky Go, TeleClub Sport Live
FC Bayern: WWWDW
UEFA Champions League: 3 W, 0 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 3-0 (Champions League: October 1, 1980, Munich; September, 16, 2015, Piraus)
Though many players are back in the squad, Guardiola faces a unique defensive challenge at midweek. Olympiacos is a team that will probably try to break, and his best defensive weapons may not be available for the match.
Counterattacks is one of a few areas Bayern would feel David Alaba's absence if he is unable to play, and the solution may be more difficult to find. Bayern would be committing defensive suicide if they only put three defense at the back, for Bayern's group of center back would not matchup well one-on-one with Olympiacos's attackers. Rainha may be the best solution, for he has roamed the left flank several times under Guardiola, but Olympiacos has wingers who could probably exploit him defensively if he is there by himself.
There is also the problem Alaba's absence opens in attack. With Thiago injured during the international break, Alaba tucked in several times during Bayern's match against Schalke to fill the void. Neither Arturo Vidal nor Xabi Alonso had the quick decision making to account for Thiago either, which resulted in a stagnant performance for most of the match over the weekend. Guardiola may use his forwards to overwhelm Olympiacos in the final third, but that will result in a lot of loss possession and more vulnerability against Olympiacos breaks.
The attribute Bayern will have to exploit is their one-on-one abilities, hoping that their individual class can pull Olympiacos players out of position. After all, the threat of Douglas Costa's and Arjen Robben's individual abilities is what opened space for Javi Martínez to get a free header in the penalty area. Such ploys, along with sharper combination play, will open up space, but it will hard to do both of those things against a very motivated opponent.
Bayern are in good position to win the group regardless of what happens at the Allianz, but eliminating one's biggest rivals is an opportunity one cannot let slip away.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Kingsley Coman – Douglas Costa – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
Rafinha – Jerome Boateng – Javi Martínez – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Medhi Benatia, Holger Badstuber, Sebastian Rode, Joshua Kimmich, Fabian Benko, Arturo Vidal
Out/Suspended: Juan Bernat (groin), Mario Götze (groin), Franck Ribery (ankle), Thiago Alcantara (knee)
"They don't play in a competitive league!" "They don't play tough fixtures every week!" "The league title is already theirs!" Who cares? Olympiacos have lost one match this season in all competitions, and no club can take that lightly.
How have they done so? With a formidable midfield presence. Luka Milivojević and Pajtim Kasami are a strong double-pivot duo that can help Olympiakos control matches, and Konstantinos Fortounis has seized the opportunity at top-flight football to create chances in attack. Those are three strong pillars to build from, and many players have benefitted from the form of those three.
That's not to take anything away from Brown Ideye and Felipe Pardo, players who have decent ball skills and finishing touches. Olympiacos has a pretty strong defense as well, although Alberto Botia will not be able to dress for the match after a thigh issue that has kept him out over the last few weeks. Marco Silva may reign his players in like many clubs have against Bayern this season, but Arthur Masuaku and Leandro Salino may have the skill to keep up with Bayern's wingers.
Olympiacos have risen together many times against big opponents in recent seasons, but Silva will have his work cut out for him when trying to keep the Bavarians at bay in their own ground.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Sebá – Konstantinos Fortounis – Felipe Pardo
Pajtim Kasami – Luka Milivojević
Arthur Masuaku – Manuel Da Costa – Dimitios Siovas – Leandro Salino
Bench: Stefanos Kapino, Omar Elabdellaoui, Praxitelis Vouros, Esteban Cambiasso, Alejandro Dominguez, Alan Pulido, Alfred Finnbogason
Out/Suspended: Alberto Botía (thigh), Andreas Bouchalakis (thigh)
Bayern may not be as invincible as Olympiacos in their own ground, but if they are not, they are pretty damn close. Many Olympiacos players have experience absorbing pressure in the Champions League, and a double-pivot will make it hard for Bayern to widen the play. Several Bayern players have done really well in one-on-one situations this seasons, and that combined with a miss run or two could open pockets of space in Olympiacos's defense. In the end, Bayern will have too much class to be denied in the Allianz, no matter how many goals Olympiacos can muster.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (4-1) Olympiacos
The Other Action
Group F Opponents
Arsenal vs. Dinamo Zagreb (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Rest of the UEFA Champions League
Zenit St Petersburg vs. Valencia (Tuesday, 12:00 PM ET)
Barcelona vs. AS Roma (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
FC Porto vs. Dinamo Kyiv (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Chelsea (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Olympique Lyonnais vs. KAA Gent (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Lokomotiv Astana vs. SL Benfica (Wednesday, 10:00 AM ET)
Malmö FF vs. Paris Saint-Germain (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Real Madrid (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Manchester United vs. PSV Eindhoven (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Atlético Madrid vs. Galatasaray (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Juventus vs. Manchester City (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)