Coming up short for the second straight year after winning the treble, Bayern Munich recommence the Champions League part of their schedule. Though their talent continues to get even stronger, clubs have continued to test them, and their trip to Greece presents another early season challenge.
Bayern have undertaken tough road fixtures in the group stage, but their trip to Piräus is on a whole different level. Simply put, Olympiacos do not lose very often at home, even in the Champions League. The passionate crowd is one Bayern is already trying to account for, one that will not be easy to tame.
Olympiacos has not faced a club as tough as Bayern in recent years though, the Rekordmeister posing perhaps a bigger challenge than Atlético Madrid and Juventus last season. The greeks knights in red and white will have to defend their turf with even more fervor in order to get a result against the German battering ram.
The Match (3rd Meeting)
Location: Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piräus, Greece
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Television and Streaming:
US: ESPN 2, Fox Soccer 2Go
UK: BT Sport Extra
Germany: Sky Sport 1&3 | HD, Sky Go, ZDF, TeleClub Sport Live
FC Bayern: WWWWW
UEFA Champions League: 2 W, 0 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 3-0 (October 1, 1980, Munich)
Bayern aimed to get deeper this season as they challenge on three fronts for yet another season. Going into their Champions League campaign, the depth they paid to achieve has dwindled again. The Rekordmeister head with limited resources to one of the toughest stadiums to snatch points in the world.
Though Bayern still look unconvincing without either piece of the Robbery contingent, they are in better position to deal with such loss. That is not only thanks to Douglas Costa, who hopes to continue his strong form into European competition, but also Kingsley Coman, who can provide Bayern with more width late in the match. The two have the ability to stretch the play, something important against a team who will undoubtedly bunker in their final third.
Bayern have faced a few teams who have parked the bus to get a result this season, and they have handled counterattacks very well. Why? The biggest reason is David Alaba, who's ability to close down opposing forces continues to improve. He excelled as a sweeper against Bayer Leverkusen before the international break, and with Olympiacos bound to break, Guardiola may slide him back to center back next to Jérome Boateng.
The biggest key to the match may come higher up the field though. Arturo Vidal bossed the midfield in Juventus's two fixtures against Olympiacos a year ago, tracking and winning the ball in defense while orchestrating play from midfield. He is coming off a poor performance against Augsburg, but his defensive contributions are too strong to leave on the bench.
Bayern are once again the superior side on paper, but those types of teams are not usually the victor in Piräus.
Projected Lineup (4-3-3):
Douglas Costa – Robert Lewandowski – Thomas Müller
Thiago Alcântara – Xabi Alonso – Arturo Vidal
Juan Bernat – David Alaba – Jérôme Boateng – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Javi Martínez, Rafinha, Joshua Kimmich, Sebastian Rode, Mario Götze, Kingsley Coman
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (thigh), Medhi Benatia (thigh), Jan Kirchhoff (ankle), Franck Ribéry (ankle), Arjen Robben (groin)
As has been the case at the club the last few years, Olympiacos comes into their 20th UEFA Champions League campaign with a whole set of new recruits. Though their squad sees constant turnover, they still manage to stay competitive, especially on their home turf.
In order for Marco Silva to continue that, he is going to rely on veteran midfielder Esteban Cambiasso to guide the youth around him. In the single pivot role, Cambiasso's experience is important to raise the game of the young players around him. He will not have to do this alone though, Giannis Maniatis expected to come back after a long injury in time to replace the suspended Luka Milivojević.
Olympiacos will undoubtedly lean on the counterattack in the Champions League, the perfect arena for new loan players Brown Ideye and Hernâni to excel. Ideye, on loan from West Brom, made his debut at the weekend, as did FC Porto player Hernâni off the bench. Though Jimmy Durmaz has taken all of the reps on the flanks this season, Hernâni may be too electric of a prospect for Marco Silva to ignore.
With more stable options to build from in the back, Olympiacos may be getting closer and closer to posing a legitimate challenge. Several of their attacking players will have to overachieve to sneak one past Bayern, even with their roaring crowd to back them.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Hernâni – Alejandro Dominguez – Felipe Pardo
Giannis Maniatis – Esteban Cambiasso
Arthur Masuaku – Dimitios Siovas – Manuel da Costa – Omar Elabdellaoui
Bench: Stefano Kapino, Alberto Botía, Leandro Salino, Pajtim Kasami, David Fuster, Jimmy Durmaz, Alfred Finnbogason
Out/Suspended: Luka Milivojević (suspended)
The way the clubs will approach the match should not be a secret. Bayern will try to control every touch on the ball, while Olympiacos will use all of their touches thrusting the ball forward on the break. Bayern has the adaptable defensive presence to really throw the hammer down though, an attribute previous top clubs did not have for their trips to Piräus. The laurel-crowned fans will be tough to handle, but even a ruckus crowd cannot take down the German champions.
Projected Score: Olympiacos (1-3) Bayern Munich
The Other Action
Group F Opponents
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Arsenal (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
The Rest of the UEFA Champions League
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Malmö FF (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Real Madrid vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
PSV Eindhoven vs. Manchester United (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Galatasaray vs. Atlético Madrid (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
SL Benfica vs. Lokomotiv Astana (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Manchester City vs. Juventus (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
AS Roma vs. Barcelona (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Dinamo Kyiv vs. FC Porto (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Chelsea vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Valencia vs. Zenit St. Petersburg (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
KAA Gent vs. Olympique Lyonnais (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)