Manchester United v Olympiakos
They welcome the visit of Olympiakos in confident mood especially after their victories at home to Maccabi Haifaand away to Bayer Leverkusen have put Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in control of Group F.
Olympiakos meanwhile, have been inconsistency personified in their Champions League campaign to date. A marvellous 6-2 victory over last season’s finalists Bayer Leverkusen was followed a week ago by an abject 3-0 defeat to unfancied Maccabi Haifa.
So, which team will turn up in Manchester? Given Bayer Leverkusen’s dreadful start to the competition, Olympiakos must think they have a reasonable chance of reaching the next phase and will travel to Old Trafford with a draw foremost in their thoughts.
The good news for Olympiakos is that United are still without captain Roy Keane. The former Republic of Ireland midfielder has yet to recover from a hip operation and is not expected back in action until December. However, several members of United’s lengthy casualty list are now approaching full fitness with the return ofPaul Scholes on Saturday a real boost to the squad.
Gary Neville who has played more Champions League games than any other player is also recovered from the broken metatarsal that forced him out of last summer’s World Cup.
Meanwhile, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who was taken off at half-time with a tight hamstring, during United’s win at Bayer Leverkusen last week, returned to action on Saturday and will definitely start. His strike partner could well be Scholes. United’s principal concern is Nicky Butt who is still struggling with a hip injury, but is expected to start. John O’Shea will continue to deputise for the injured Mickael Silvestre at left back.
Olympiakos have a couple of injury doubts with both Houtos and Christos Kontis expected to miss out. However everyone else will be fully rested as the Greek league is currently on strike due to ongoing rows over television contracts.
Olympiakos, as shown by their defeat to Maccabi Haifa, are poor travellers and given United’s propensity to roll over weaker teamsat Old Trafford, then it is difficult to see beyond a win for the home side.
: Barthez, P. Neville, Blanc, Ferdinand, G.Neville, Beckham, Butt, Veron, Giggs, Scholes, Van Nistelrooy.
Olympiakos: Eleftheopoulos, Patsatzoglou, Venetidis, Antzas, Anatolakis, Giannakopoulos, Karembeu, Djordjevic, Ze Elias, Zetterberg, Giovanni
Maccabi Haifa v Bayer Leverkusen
After going down in their opening two matches to Olympiakos and Manchester Unoted respectively, this is a match, last year’s losing finalists cannot afford to lose. Saturday’s win over Bayern Munich will certainly instill some much needed confidence into Topmoller’s men as they seek to make amends for their dreadful start to the season. A win tonight is vital if they are to maintain hopes of reaching the next phase.
‘We have just watched another video this morning,’ said Toppmoller. ‘Maccabi Haifa play a very, very clever game, so we will have to be on our guard.’
Toppmoller has revealed that he will employ the same tactics used in last week’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester United – a performance which carried more conviction than many so far, in what has been a miserable start to the season.
Leverkusen will be without llong-term injury casualties Jens Nowotny and Diego Placente, while first choice goalkeeper Hans-Joerg Butt, is expectedto start after being dropped for the earlier group matches.
Haifa, meanwhile, bounced back froom their opening day thrashing to Manchester United, witha 3-0 win over Olympiakos. Coach Yitzhak Shum will be relieved that Haifa’s Walid Badier has shrugged off the injury which forced him to limp out of Saturday’s 1-0 win over Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Probable teams: To be announced