Olympiakos v Wolves: Excitement amidst the concern in Athens
Wolves have reluctantly travelled to Athens to face Olympiakos, but in difficult circumstances Kevin Hatchard still expects a great game.
Olympiakos v Wolves Thursday 12 March, 20:00 Live on BT Sport
Olympiakos infused with belief after Emirates success
The long-held view of Olympiakos in Europe has been that while they were difficult opponents to face in Piraeus, they couldn't get close to matching that intensity and quality on the road. Certainly in the Champions League, there's been an element of truth to that, with the Greek giants losing 13 of their last 20 away games.
However, Pedro Martins' team produced an excellent display to knock Arsenal out of the Europa League at the Emirates a fortnight ago. They exposed the Gunners' lack of solidity at set plays, and then rode their luck in extra time, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a glaring opportunity with virtually the last kick of the game.
Olympiakos will be robbed of one of their greatest weapons for this home leg, and that's the support of their fans. The game, understandably, is being played behind closed doors because of the Coronavirus crisis.
They welcome back physically imposing centre-back Ruben Semedo, and there are no fresh injury concerns. Martins will however have been perplexed by the weekend's cup exit at bitter rivals PAOK. Olympiakos were 2-0 up inside nine minutes, but it was 2-2 three minutes later, and PAOK scored the winner in the second half.
Wary Wolves must focus on the task at hand
Wolves did not want to make this trip to Athens, and wanted this game postponed. Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis has contracted the Coronavirus, although the club say they have tested all players, and those tests came back negative.
This makes for a strange and unsettling scenario, but it would be a shame if it derails what has been an exceptional European campaign for Wolves. Manager Nuno Espirito Santo has played strong teams from the outset, and has been rewarded with some excellent displays. Wolves smashed Espanyol 6-3 on aggregate, they won at Besiktas in the group stage, at Torino in the qualifiers, and they have played enterprising football throughout. There have been goals galore in Wolves' UEL games. Ten of their 14 matches in the competition have seen an Over 2.5 Goals bet land, including the last four.
Jonny is injured, and the Spaniard is expected to be deputised for once again by Ruben Vinagre. There are no other key absences due to injury or suspension.
Wolves difficult to back in odd circumstances
It's impossible to know just how perturbed Wolves have been by the build-up to this match, and their fears about the virus. Add that to the fact that Olympiakos have won 11 of their last 13 home games in all competitions, and it's hard to escape the idea that Wolves are a bit short at 2.30. I agree that Wolves should be favourites, but I'm not convinced that's the right price.
Goals in Greece the way to go
Wolves have scored at least twice in six of their seven away games in this competition, but they have only kept two clean sheets in the process. Olympiakos saw four of their six home games in the Champions League this term feature at least three goals, and in their last nine home matches in all competitions they have rattled in 25 goals.
I'll back Over 2.5 Goals here at 2.34.
Jimenez or Jota to strike?
Given that Diogo Jota has banged in six Europa League goals since the qualifiers, and that Raul Jimenez has scored three, I'm surprised to see their prices to score in 90 minutes. Jota is trading at 3.50, while Jimenez is 2.72.