Wolves v Olympiakos: Depleted Greeks could bear gifts

Wolves and Olympiakos are locked together at 1-1 after a first leg that was played months ago, and Kevin Hatchard believes their second meeting will strike a few sparks.

Wolves v Olympiakos
Thursday 06 August, 20:00
Live on BT Sport

Wolves left with just one European road

After Wolves lost their final Premier League game of the season at Chelsea, and then that same Chelsea side lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal, Nuno's men now only have one opportunity to secure European football for next season. They'll have to win the Europa League to book a Champions League spot for next term.

Of course, the pursuit of the trophy is more about glory in the present than future adventures, especially for a club that hasn't won a major honour since 1980. Wolves have taken this tournament seriously from the get-go, and it's worth remembering that the quest began over a year ago. Their most recent match in the competition was a 1-1 first-leg draw at Olympiakos, a game in which they came from behind against ten men.

Wolves had a disappointing end to the Premier League campaign, as they won just two of their final six games of the season. They failed to score in three of those matches, and they were incredibly flat at Stamford Bridge, managing just one shot on target. The picture was however rosier at Molineux, with three wins from the final four matches including convincing victories over Everton and Crystal Palace.

Portuguese winger Daniel Podence could feature against his old club, while his compatriot Joao Moutinho is pushing for a recall in midfield. Adama Traore was only a substitute at Chelsea, so will be raring to go.

Olympiakos keen to take another Premier League scalp

The Emirates held its breath, and Youssef El Arabi made the perfect contact with the ball to send it flying into the Arsenal net. The Gunners had been moments away from reaching the Europa League's last 16, but Olympiakos found a way to win, as they so often do.

That 2-1 extra-time win in North London wasn't the first time the Greek champions have rattled a Premier League cage this season. They were the better side in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham in the Champions League's group stage, and then took a shock 2-0 lead at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, only to lose 4-2.

Olympiakos finished 18 points clear of bitter rivals PAOK, and they ended the Greek Super League season strongly, winning 17 of their last 20 games. The club continues to be dogged by allegations of historic match-fixing, but on the pitch coach Pedro Martins continues to deliver good results.

However, Martins is without some key defensive players ahead of this trip to the Black Country. Consistent and reliable goalkeeper Jose Sa picked up an injury in training, while imposing defender Ruben Semedo is suspended after he was sent off inside half an hour in the first leg. While Olympiakos conceded just 16 goals in 36 league games this term, they have found clean sheets harder to come by in European competition. They leaked 14 goals in six UCL group-stage games, and conceded in both legs against Arsenal.

Wolves rightful favourites, but are they too short?

Wolves are trading at 1.75 to win the second leg inside 90 minutes, and they are the better side. However, Olympiakos raised their game to win at Arsenal in the previous round, and Wolves limped around the track in the final lap of the domestic season. I can't excited about that price for the hosts, or indeed their price of 1.35 in the To Qualify market.

Second leg to open up?

Olympiakos need to score at least once to reach the quarter-finals, and they found the net twice at Tottenham and twice at Arsenal. It's easy to be distracted by their domestic defensive record, but they have found clean sheets much harder to come by at this level. Six of Olympiakos' 10 UCL games featured at least three goals, and they scored in all but one of their group games.

Both Teams To Score 2.24 and Over 2.5 Goals 2.36 both seem overpriced to me.

Jimenez and El Arabi worth considering

Even though Mexican sharpshooter Raul Jimenez has only scored in six of his last 16 appearances in all competitions, he is still Wolves' most consistent and potent threat in attack. He is trading at 2.30 to score inside 90 minutes, and his tally of nine UEL goals (including qualifiers) demands attention. Without the powerful Semedo, Jimenez may well get more room to manoeuvre.

On the Olympiakos side of things, Youssef El Arabi scored the winner at Arsenal and the opener against Wolves in Athens. The 33-year-old has scored 27 goals in all competitions this term, and is 7/2 to score on the Sportsbook.

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