Europa: Olympiacos looking to bounce back against Freiburg

Olympiacos will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Nantes last week as they take on Freiburg in Group G of the Europa League on Thursday.

Freiburg, on the other hand, can play with more freedom having beaten Qarabag FK in their opening match in the competition.

Having lost 5-1 on aggregate to Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League second qualifying round, this is Olympiacos’ second successive season competing in the Europa League group stage.

The Red-Whites are well-versed in this competition, though, having taken part in five of the six previous knockout rounds. Some of these appearances have come from finishing third in the Champions League group stage and dropping down to Europe’s secondary tournament as a result.

That demoralising two-legged defeat to their Israeli opponents saw Pedro Martins’s four-year spell in Greece come to an end, as he was sacked despite winning three successive league titles. Former Huddersfield Town boss Carlos Corberan has replaced him, after unexpectedly guiding the Terriers to the Championship playoff final last season.

The 39-year-old marginally guided his new side through two qualifying rounds on penalty shootouts to reach this stage, which is symptomatic of his lack of a positive impact since taking the helm, having already dropped four points in four league games as well as losing 2-1 to Nantes last Thursday.

As such, there is significant pressure on Marcelo Bielsa’s former assistant at Leeds United to beat Freiburg this week, but it will not be easy against a side competing towards the top of the Bundesliga.

Indeed, it would be fair to say that Freiburg represent a much more settled unit than their forthcoming opponents, having had Christian Streich as their manager since 2011.

Only Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid has served a club in Europe’s top five leagues for a longer period of time, with Streich enjoying one of his most successful seasons last time around by finishing sixth as well as claiming a runners-up medal in the DFB-Pokal.

Their reward is a place in the Europa League for only the fifth time in their history, but Streich will be hoping to take them into the knockout rounds for the first time since 2001-02, when they lost to Feyenoord in the third round of the UEFA Cup.

A drab 0-0 against Borussia Monchengladbach on Sunday may have ended their four-match winning streak but it should not take the wind out of their sails given that they remain second in the Bundesliga table, only one point behind league leaders Union Berlin and one point ahead of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Should they be able to make it two wins from two in the Europa League by beating Olympiacos on Thursday, they would put themselves in an incredibly strong position in the group and have every chance of making modern history for themselves.

Olympiacos appear to have no injury concerns restricting Corberan’s team selection, although Konrad de la Fuente and Aguibou Camara – who were both named in the matchday squad for the weekend’s 1-1 draw at home to Volos – are one of several first-team players ineligible having not been named in the Europa League squad.

Having failed to register a single shot on target against Nantes last week, Corberan is likely to revert to a four-man defence as he attempts to be more offensive on home soil.

Mathieu Valbuena may be benched with his experience considered more useful from the bench at 37-years-old, while Kostas Manolas will be expected to lead the defence.

Freiburg, meanwhile, will travel without Roland Sallai, Lucas Holer and Kimberly Ezekwem due to injuries.

Streich picked a strong XI for the win against Qarabag last week but he did rest Michael Gregoritsch for Nils Petersen in attack and is likely to do so again, while Lukas Kubler and Manuel Gulde could receive crucial minutes having recently returned from injury.

Olympiacos possible starting lineup:
Vaclik; Vrsaljko, Manolas, Ba, Reabciuk; M’Vila, Bouchalakis; Biel, Hwang, Masouras; Camara

Freiburg possible starting lineup:
Flekken; Kubler, Lienhart, Gulde, Gunter; Eggestein, Keitel; Doan, Jeong, Grifo; Petersen

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