Olympiacos vs Tottenham: 8 Key Facts & Stats to Impress Your Mates Ahead of Champions League Clash

The time has finally come for Tottenham to get back on the Champions League horse, just three months after that heartbreaking final that shall not be further dwelled on.

For now is the time to look at the future, and the future is Olympiacos at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium. Don’t know much about the Greek lads? Afraid of what to expect? Desperate for some knowledge to back-up your beer-fuelled claims ahead of the game?

Well, fear not, your care package of stats have arrived, courtesy of Opta, and I assure you each is more tantalising than the last. Ella re (that means ‘come on’ in Greek, and you can have that for free), dive in.


Schooled Britannia

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Think the boys from Piraeus will be an easy proposition? Think again. 

That’s because, since 2009-10, Olympiacos have won five of their six European home matches against English opposition, with three wins against Arsenal and one apiece against Manchester United and European heavyweights Burnley. 

Their only defeat? A 3-0 loss to Arsenal at home in the 2015 group stage. A north London omen, perhaps.


The Streak

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Not only do Olympiacos possess a perfect record from their first three league games, they’ve also won their last five matches in European competition (all qualifiers).

The catch is that they have never won six consecutive such matches in their history, so it’ll be the history makers or breakers on Wednesday night.


Ancient History

Ralph Coates

These two sides have met just twice before in a competitive fixture. Both of those games came way back in the 1972/73 edition of the UEFA Cup, when Spurs won 4-0 at home in the first-leg of their Last 32 tie, before losing 1-0 away in the return leg.

Eaaaaaassssyyy work. 


50 Up for Poch

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This is a seminal game for a myriad of reasons, but spare a thought for old Mauricio Pochettino, who will be taking charge of his 50th European game as manager of Spurs.

It’s a hell of an achievement, only bettered by Bill Nicholson, who oversaw 55 European games for the club. Now, I don’t want to jinx it, but that record should now be in the bag. 


Harry Kane vs Greece

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Harry Kane hates Greece.

Twice he has come up against Greek opposition, and twice he has triumphed, notching four goals. This includes a hat-trick against Asteras Tripolis in the 5-1 homes win back in 2014.

Harry Kane hates Greece.


No Kane No Gain

Harry Kane

And that’s not the only fortunate foreboding as far as Kane’s goalscoring goes, with the English striker having contributed to 15 goals in his last 14 Champions League appearances. 

That’s 12 goals and three assists. Prolific.


The Actual Streak

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So, remember that streak mentioned earlier concerning Olympiacos. Well, considering its inclusion of qualifiers, it may not be as relevant as this completely contrasting one concerning the UCL. 

That’s because the Red and Whites are winless in their last eight Champions League matches (one draw, seven losses), with their last victory coming against Dinamo Zagreb in November 2015.

That makes it their joint-longest winless run in the competition alongside an eight-game run ending in October 2003. Yikes.


The Group Stage Caveat

Antonio Candreva,Lucas

That being said, all is not rosy for Spurs in the Champions League world, either. Which is weird, seeing as they were the second-best team in the whole thing last year. But it turns their knockout knockout stage performances (see what I did there) belied some serious group stage struggles, especially *warning sign blaring* away from home. 

Pochettino’s men failed to win any of their group stage games away from home in 2018-19 (drawing two, losing one) but won two of the three on the road in those knockout stages; beating Borussia Dortmund and Ajax on their way to the final.

So, should the worst happen in Attica, don’t worry, it’s all part of a wider plan. 


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Frank Lampard, Ross Barkley & Cesar Azpilicueta Clarify Chelsea Penalty Situation After Costly Miss

?Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has insisted that Ross Barkley has been the club’s designated penalty taker all season following the midfielder’s late miss from the spot in the 1-0 Champions League defeat against Valencia on Tuesday night.

Chelsea were trailing as a result of a second half strike from Spain international Rodrigo, but a handball from Valencia’s Daniel Wass gave the home side the chance to equalise.

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Barkley, who had come off the bench just moments earlier, took the ball. However, as he stood waiting to take the kick there was a discussion with both Jorginho and Willian. The former appeared to give his blessing, but the latter seemed more reluctant to walk away.

Barkley gestured with his hand a number of times to the Brazilian as if to say ‘I’m taking it’, or ‘I’m the penalty taker’. Unfortunately for Barkley, his subsequent effort missed the target.

Chelsea fans on social media immediately questioned why Barkley had been the one to take it when they believed Jorginho to be the designated taker. The Italian had been first up in the UEFA Super Cup shootout against Liverpool, while Barkley was second that night.

But Barkley had earlier stepped up and scored from the spot against both Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Monchengladbach during the summer, and Lampard was quick to clarify the situation in the wake of his costly miss.

“Ross is our penalty taker and he has been since pre-season when he scored a couple,” the boss told Chelsea TV after the game.

The subject was further raised when Lampard faced the media at the post-match press conference and he explained that Jorginho and Willian had been the penalty takers on the pitch, but only until Barkley came on as a substitute.

“Ross is the penalty taker. He was in pre-season and scored a couple. He has been when he started; he was when he came on and he missed it,” Lampard said via the Daily Telegraph.

“I don’t know what the conversation was but Jorginho and Willian were the takers on the pitch. When Ross comes on, he becomes the penalty taker and he missed it.”

Barkley reiterated his manager’s words in comments published on Chelsea’s official website.

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“When I’m on the pitch I take pens, but I obviously didn’t execute it right,” he said. “I felt confident. Everybody misses penalties. I take penalties every day, I scored penalties in pre-season. I have missed penalties before, it’s just one of those things.

“We’ve got a lot of good penalty takers in the squad. On the sheet in the changing room it says I’m on penalties if I’m on the pitch, otherwise it’s Jorginho.”

As for what Jorginho and Willian were saying to him, Barkley declared they were just ‘encouraging me to score the goal’, rather than debating who should have the ball.


Cesar Azpilicueta has also since referred to Barkley as ‘one of the best penalty takers in the team’ and ‘the one who takes them’. The captain also backed up Barkley’s assertion by stating that Jorginho and Willian only offered words of encouragement.

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Ronaldo: Looking Back at 6 of he Brazilian’s Most Iconic Moments on His Birthday

That lightning acceleration. That Brazilian flair. That dodgy haircut. 

We all have our own memories of Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, or simply ‘Ronaldo’. The big man burst onto the scene whilst playing for PSV Eindhoven, and terrorised defences with his breathtaking speed, quick feet and ability to round any goalkeeper on the planet. 

Brazil's forward Ronaldo, wrapped in the

Ronaldo is considered one of the greatest footballers to have ever walked this earth, and he truly was a joy to watch. The two-time Ballon d’Or winner played with such a grace and speed that he made the game look so easy – a sign of an elite player. 

As football fans, we were privileged to watch the genius at work for a number of years, but his plaguing knee injuries undoubtedly robbed us all of many more historic goals and tricks. 

The former Brazil international is a footballing legend, and it’s only fair that we look back at the great man’s most iconic moments on his 43rd birthday. 


Hat-Trick vs Bayer Leverkusen in 1994 

This is the night where it all began for Ronaldo. He was making a name for himself in Holland with PSV, but the teenager burst onto the European stage in an exhilarating encounter against Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Cup. 

Ronaldo, unknown to most at the time, single-handedly destroyed the Leverkusen defence in one of the most impressive individual displays of all time. Although the crumbling Eindhoven backline continued to ship goals, this irrepressible youngster stunned the world with his frightening pace, rocket-powered shots and deft touch in front of goal. 


Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick on the night, his second goal a wonder-strike from 25 yards, and although PSV fell to a 5-4 defeat in Germany, the Brazilian wonderkid had given the world a glimpse of what was to come over the next decade. 


Barcelona Goal vs SD Compostela 

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Still incredibly young and raw, Ronaldo was taking the world by storm. It’s a crying shame that the Brazilian only spent one season at Camp Nou, but he certainly made the most of his time with the Catalan club.

The ?Barca striker scored an incredible 47 goals in 49 appearances for La Blaugrana and the majority of them were pieces of art, but his goal against SD Compostela ranks highest of all. 

Picking up the ball in his own half, Ronaldo danced away from a challenge, released himself from the grip of the most cynical shirt-pull of all time, and set off on a storming charge towards a visibly quaking backline. 

O Fenomeno weaved through several tackles before rifling home, leaving Barca manager Bobby Robson gobsmacked on the touchline. A goal so good, no one in the stadium could truly believe it had happened.


UEFA Cup Final Goal vs Lazio 

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Cup final goals are always special, but a goal to seal a win against your league rivals in European competition always tastes a little bit sweeter. ?Inter striker Ronaldo wrapped up a 3-0 victory against fellow Serie A side Lazio, and he delivered his trademark finish which summed up the man’s brilliance.

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Breaking the offside trap with expert timing, Ronaldo tore away from the flagging defenders, sucked the goalkeeper in before rounding him with ease, and nonchalantly rolled the ball home. 

It was a move he produced so regularly, but no keeper in the game could live with his devastating drop of the shoulder when through on goal. 


Real Madrid Debut vs Alaves 

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Debuts are not an easy occasion for some players. So much expectation to deliver, and the world’s eyes are boring into you.

You know what helps? Scoring 61 seconds into your first match. And that’s exactly what O Fenomeno did. 

Brazilian World Cup winner Ronaldo waves

Coming on as a substitute, Ronaldo immediately got his name on the ?Real Madrid scoresheet, bringing down a difficult cross from the left and lashing a volley past the helpless goalkeeper. 

I imagine that calmed the nerves of just about everyone at the Santiago Bernabeu, although I doubt Ronaldo was too concerned to begin with. The new Galactico went on to add a second goal later in the match, and became an instant fans’ favourite in the Spanish capital.


 World Cup Final Brace  

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This was the pinnacle of the great man’s career. Ronaldo had suffered heartbreak four years prior when Brazil lost the World Cup final to France, and the young talisman had suffered a serious convulsion hours before kickoff. 

The tournament favourites entered the competition with great expectations and the weight of a nation on their shoulders, but the Samba boys duly delivered, banishing the memories of France ’98. 


Ronaldo was the star of the World Cup, and O Fenomeno ended the tournament as top scorer with eight goals; bagging a brace in the final. 

And of course, we all remember that suspect trim he rocked against Germany, which unfortunately never really caught on.


Real Madrid Hat-Trick vs Manchester United 

This is still one of the greatest moments in Champions League history, and Ronaldo’s Real Madrid treble is considered one of the best hat-tricks that football has ever witnessed. 

The Spanish giants rode into Manchester brimming with confidence, and O Fenomeno delivered one of the outstanding performances of his career against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. 

?His first goal was a brilliant first-time finish, catching goalkeeper Fabien Barthez by surprise, lashing the ball fiercely in at the near post. 

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Ronaldo’s second goal was a tap-in, finishing off some neat buildup play, but the pièce de résistance however, was his hat-trick goal. 

Picking up possession midway inside the ?Man Utd half, the Madrid number 11 took a few strides forward, shifted the ball onto his right foot, and unleashed a vicious effort which somehow curled, dipped and arrowed past Barthez. 

Ronaldo was applauded off the pitch by the entire Old Trafford crowd, which tells us all we need to know about one of football’s greatest servants. 

Parabéns O Fenomeno!


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Champions League: Picking a Combined XI From Teams in Group G

?Group G in the UEFA Champions League kicked off on Tuesday night, with Lyon drawing at home to Zenit St. Petersburg and German side RB Leipzig picking up an impressive victory away at Benfica.

This is arguably the most competitive group, with all four sides possessing a similar level of quality and European experience, and all will believe they have enough to progress through into the knockout stages.

With all sides seemingly similar in ability, picking a combined XI certainly wasn’t an easy task, but here’s a look at the players who did make the cut in a traditional 4-4-2 system.


Goalkeeper and Defenders

Ruben Dias

Peter Gulacsi (GK) – RB Leipzig keeper Gulacsi has been extremely impressive for the German side in the ?Bundesliga over the last few seasons. He kept 15 clean sheets last term which was more than any other goalkeeper in the league, including Manuel Neuer. He also kept out a greater percentage of shots than any other custodian at 77.5 percent and is a commanding figure in the box, comfortable at claiming crosses.

Leo Dubois (RB) – The 24-year-old right-back has been brilliant for Lyon since signing for the Ligue 1 outfit in 2018. He has started all five of Lyon’s games in the league this year and made his full debut for France in June against Andorra. Possessing good awareness of the game, Dubois is also an exceptional crosser of the ball when he finds himself in forward positions.

Ruben Dias (CB) – Since bursting onto the scene in 2017, Dias has been superb for Benfica at the heart of their defence, making over 60 starts in the last two seasons. The 22-year-old has caught the attention of a number of European clubs such as ?Manchester United due to his impressive performances and has broken into the Portuguese side, earning 13 caps already.

Willi Orban (CB) – Leipzig captain and Hungarian defender Orban has been a regular in the Leipzig side since he arrived in 2015. He made 42 appearances last season for club and country and helped his side keep 18 clean sheets in these games. Growing in experience, Orban is one of the best defenders in Germany.

Alejandro Grimaldo (LB) – Benfica as a club have had a lot of young talent come through in recent seasons. Dias, who has already been highlighted, and Joao Felix, who signed for Atletico Madrid, are perfect examples. 23-year-old Grimaldo is another exciting prospect, with the left-back creating 12 goals and scoring four in 34 games in the Primeira Liga last term.


Midfielders

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?Malcom (RM) – While Malcom did struggle at ?Barcelona, scoring just four times in 24 games during his time in Catalonia, Zenit have got a 22-year-old Brazilian winger with an incredible amount of ability and potential on their hands. His devastating pace and power helped him notch up 12 goals and seven assists for Bordeaux in the 2017/18 season, figures Zenit fans will be hoping he can repeat when he returns to fitness next month.

Diego Demme (CM) – Demme, a traditional number six, puts fires out wherever he goes on the football pitch. He is part of a Leipzig side that prides itself on relentlessly pressuring their opponents and the 27-year-old is a leader in this department, covering an average of 7.8 miles per game in the 2018/19 campaign.

Pizzi (CM) – Creative, composed and courageous, Benfica midfielder Pizzi is one of the best players in the Primeira Liga. Converted from a winger to a central midfielder when he joined Benfica in 2013, he has already picked up the player of the month award for August in his domestic league, scoring five goals in the opening five games. Capped by Portugal 15 times at the age of 29, he has a vital amount of experience.

Memphis Depay (LM) – Playing either from the left or directly up front, Depay is one of the hottest players in Europe right now. He has bagged 29 goals in his last two seasons with Lyon, notching up a further 23 assists. He has so much talent at his disposal and has also been a crucial part of the Netherlands side over the last 18 months, contributing to ten goals in this time.


Forwards

Timo Werner

Timo Werner (ST) – Leipzig’s go-to guy for goals is German striker Timo Werner. He has scored an impressive 55 goals in the Bundesliga in 96 games, making him one of the most prolific forwards in European football. Werner always seems to have the knack of being in the right place at the right time to pounce inside the box and is a key reason behind Leipzig’s success over the last three years.

Moussa Dembele (ST) – After banging the goals in for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership for two years, Dembele signed for Lyon in the summer of 2018 for £19.7m. The 23-year-old enjoyed a fruitful first season in France, scoring 15 goals as Lyon finished third in Ligue 1, and the striker has continued his form into this season, already netting five times. With his good strength and agility, Dembele will cause problems for defenders in the Champions League this term.


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Victor Lindelof Signs New Long-Term Contract at Manchester United

Manchester United centre back Victor Lindelof has signed a new long-term contract that will keep him at Old Trafford until at least June 2024.

Lindelof, who joined the club from Benfica for around £31.5m in 2017, has gone on to make 74 appearances for the Red Devils, notching one goal.

Victor Lindelof

With a contract that previously stretched until 2021, the Swedish international has been in talks with United over extending his deal, and the club have now confirmed this fact in an official statement.

That statement read: “Victor Lindelof has signed a new long-term contract with Manchester United, keeping him at the club until at least June 2024. There is an option to extend for a further year.”

Speaking upon the announcement, the player admitted: “Since the day I arrived at United it has felt like home. I have grown significantly both as a player and as a person in the last two years and for that I am grateful to everyone at the club for their help and support.

“I love playing football and my aim now is to help the team to win trophies and repay the fans for their unrivalled support.”

He continued: “I know that everyone at the club shares this vision and will give everything to get ?Manchester United back to where it belongs.

”I’m still young and know I can improve further but with the help of the boss and his coaching staff, I believe that only good things are ahead for this great club.”

Posting the news himself on Twitter, the defender wrote: “It’s an honour to play for this club and I can’t wait to do so for many years to come. My future is only red.”

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