Olympiakos v Manchester City: Value lies with in-form Torres

Ferran Torres is in fine form and looks a big price to find the net when Manchester City head to Olympiakos in the Champions League on Wednesday, says Andy Schooler.

Olympiakos v Manchester City
Wednesday 25 November, 17:55
Live on BT Sport 3

City's slide continuing

When lockdown entered the lexicon back in March, Manchester City had just won the Carabao Cup and held hopes of completing a famous cup treble.

But after the three-month hiatus ended, Pep Guardiola's men suffered miserable FA Cup and Champions League exits.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pitifully-short off-season has brought no change in fortune - Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Spurs means City have won just three of their first eight Premier League games. Hopes of regaining the Premier League title are fading even faster than they did last season.

If City fail to win here, it will be the first time in almost two years they've gone three games without a win (and even that run brought a victory on penalties).

However, there is good news.

Guardiola's men were 3-0 winners over Wednesday's opponents Olympiakos only three weeks ago.

The goalscoring problems which have dogged their domestic campaign haven't been replicated in Europe with three also put past Porto and Marseille.

Three wins out of three so far mean a draw here will send City into the last 16 with two games to spare. Win and they may even have won the group by the end of the night.

In a packed fixture schedule like no other, that carrot should not be under-estimated. Guardiola would love two meaningless games in the next fortnight to ease the burden on his stars.

I'd expect the manager to go pretty strong with his line-up. Next up they host Burnley on Saturday and Guardiola will be well aware of the problems his side have caused the Clarets - they've won the last six meetings by an aggregate score of 23-1. He should be able to rest a few there and get away with it.

Selection problems for hosts

Olympiakos don't have such options.

The Greek Super League leaders head to second-placed Aris at the weekend and even if boss Pedro Martins were hoping to juggle his squad, a host of problems makes that almost impossible.

Olympiakos were left fuming after top scorer Youssef Al-Arabi and Ahmed 'Kouka' Hassan were forced to quarantine while away on international duty. They will miss out here.

Playmaker Mathieu Valbuena (pictured) was already injured; soo too is winger Bruma. All four played in the reverse fixture at the Etihad, as did Jose Holebas, who is doubtful with a hamstring injury. Ex-Wolves man Ruben Vinagre is another who could miss out.

This will be a much different team to the one who gave it a decent go in the second half at the Etihad before two late goals sealed the victory for the hosts.

The evidence for an upset

It's that reason which takes me away from evidence which might otherwise suggest a possible upset - Olympiakos are at 12.0 to win the game.

They've won 10 and lost just two of their last 16 home games in Europe, while this season they've played seven times at the Karaiskakis Stadium and won all seven without conceding. They are 21.0 to win to nil here.

While on the subject of stats, the Greeks have remarkably scored only one goal in the first half of games this season (17 after the break), knowledge which may well be of use to in-play punters on the exchange.

Goals chance for City

For all that miserly defending on home soil, the Greeks haven't faced a side of City's quality.
They may have hung in the game at the Etihad but the 'chances created' figures of 21-3 in City's favour show they still managed to dominate.

With so many attacking players sidelined, the hosts may well try to replicate Tottenham's approach of sitting deep and bidding to counter when possible.

But it's fair to say they lack Spurs' quality in both defence and attack and I don't envisage City being kept out.

In fact, if they do get in front fairly early - as they did three weeks ago - this could be their chance to get back on the goal trail against a scratch home team who could well have an eye on their weekend game should they fall two down.

While I've shown how the argument for under 2.5 goals (2.32) can be made, over 2.5 still looks more likely to me, although 1.68 isn't a price to salivate over.

Back on-fire Ferran

Instead, my best bet of the night is Ferran Torres to score.

The 20-year-old has scored in three of his eight starts for City and has another goal as a substitute.

In fact, he's found the net in every Champions League game so far. Having also netted twice for Valencia in last season's competition, he's now scored in five of his last eight UCL appearances.

Torres has also netted four goals for Spain this season, including a hat-trick against Germany last week.

Of course, the danger here is Torres gets a rest but he's a player really firing at present and there's not too many of those at City right now, so I'd expect Guardiola to stick with a player he's picked to start City's last five games.

Guardiola talked of the need for a cautious return for Sergio Aguero the other day so he looks an unlikely starter and with Gabriel Jesus not long back from injury too, there must be a chance that Torres even starts as a centre forward again.

Aguero, Jesus and Raheem Sterling are all 2.0 or shorter in the anytime market but Torres is out at 3.75 and that's simply too big.

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