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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Olympiacos v Spurs, 18.09.19

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Spurs' record in Europe:-
The official crest of Tottenham Hotspur
U.E.F.A Champions League
 P  W   D   L   F - A
38 17   8  13  68 - 52

(Finalists 2019)
European Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
8   4   1   3  21 - 13
(Semi-Finalists 1962)
European Cup Winners Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
33  20  5   8  65 - 34
(Winners 1963)
UEFA Cup/Europa League
 P    W   D   L   F - A
140  78  36  26  276-121 
(Winners 1972, 1984
 Finalists 1974)
The club logo of Olympiacos
P    W   D   L   F - A
219 119 50  50  430-220

A better start required for Spurs this year

Last season's Champions League runners-up are once again in Group B and have three opponents who they have played before, but not recently in European Competition. On October 1st, we host Bayern Munich (perhaps not quite so mighty as in previous years), who we last faced in a competitive game in 1983; then we play Crvena Zvezda (aka Red Star Belgrade) at home and away in October and November, but first we travel to Athens for a game that is likely to be played in a hot atmosphere, both with reference to the temperature and the vociferous and excited nature of the home fans!

The only other time we faced Olympiacos (the Greek spelling is Olympiakos) was in the UEFA Cup second round in 1972, when we won 4-0 at home with goals by Jimmy Pearce (2), Martin Chivers and Ralph Coates. We lost the away leg 1-0, but the tie had been won. By coincidence, in the next round in 1972, we played Red Star Belgrade, and beat them on aggregate 2-1. Ultimately that season we were knocked out (we were defending UEFA Cup holders remember) by Liverpool in the semi-final. There is a certain symmetry here, I think.

I've been to Greece three times in recent years and twice visited Athens. The first visit was to Thessalonika where we played PAOK in September 2011. 18 year old Harry Kane made just his second Spurs appearance and it was his second 0-0 draw. Kane's first game had been at home to Hearts after we had beaten the Edinburgh club 5-0 in the first leg. Manager Harry Redknapp played a young side in Greece in what was literally a fiery atmosphere (see the picture in the report!) and they came away with a fine result. Some thanks had to go to man of the match Carlo Cudicini for keeping a clean sheet.

I returned to Greece (this time Athens) a year later when a stronger team (managed now by Andre Villas Boas) got a 1-1 draw at The Olympic Stadium in another Europa League tie against Panathinaikos. Michael Dawson scored our goal. The Olympiacos "Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis" is in the district of Piraeus to the south-west of the Olympic Stadium. I did visit the Olympiacos Stadium on my previous visit, and it is fully decked in red and white and made me think of a certain place at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road!

My last visit to Athens was when we played Asteras Tripolis in November 2014. That was a fair distance from the Greek capital, and involved a drive which crossed the Corinth Canal. Andros Townsend (penalty) and Harry Kane scored our goals in a 2-1 win. "Two of our own" was the headline. In the home match against Asteras Tripolis, Kane had scored a hat-trick before takimng over in goal after Hugo Lloris got sent off!

Now Spurs are in their fourth consecutive Champions League season and face seasoned opponents. I have seen every one of those Champions League games in the flesh with the exception of the away trip to Moscow in September 2016 for the CSKA game. For once, I shall not be travelling to see this game and like many of you will settle down on the sofa. I am hoping to carry eye witness reports on Spurs Odyssey though.

Olympiakos have been regular participants in European Competition at the highest level, but they have yet to taste the sweetness of a UEFA trophy victory. They were in the Group Stage of the Champions League two years ago, but in a group featuring Juventus and Barcelona, along with Sporting Lisbon, they were doomed to finish bottom. The club has a Portuguese manager Pedro Martins who took over last season leading them to second place - to PAOK. PAOK failed to get through either the Champions League qualifier (lost to Ajax) or their Europa League play-off. On the other hand Olympiacos have negotiated three qualifying ties to win their place in Group B.

The Greeks are in good form, having played a total of 9 games and won 8 of those. The only draw game was the first of their matches away to Viktoria Plzen. Olympiacos have also been in good scoring form having scored 4 goals in two matches and 5 in their last game on Saturday at home to Volos. They have won all three of their league matches, and are top of the table on goal difference. Goals have come from various sources including Brazilian midfielder Guilherme (3), Moroccan El Arabi (4) and a Spanish forward Guerrero (3). Greek players (51%) dominate the squad.

Spurs' progress to the final last season looked highly unlikely when we only managed to gain one point from our first three games. That run started with defeat away to Inter in the San Siro when we succumbed to two late goals. It is imperative that we make a better start this year. Olympiacos have winning form, but surely not against opposition comparable to that of the Premier League.

Spurs have sent a strong squad which included Davinson Sanchez, who was described as "doubtful on the UEFA site. With a Saturday lunchtime game at Leicester to follow, some degree of rotation is going to be required, surely. Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier have travelled. We know that Lo Celso is out. Juan Foyth stayed at home, havong just returned to full training. Ryan Sessegnon is undergoing assessment, after reporting irritation with hks previous hamstring injury.

I'll predict a winning start, and go for a 2-0 to Spurs.

Referee Gianluca Rocchi and his team are all from Italy. Signor Rocchi is a high profile official who has been in charge of 6 Champions League games over the past 12 months, FIFA Club World Cup games, Europa League (including the final between Chelsea and Arsenal) plus several International matches. Signor Rocchi last had charge of Spurs two years ago when we beat Borussia Dortmund 3-0. Spurs fans were not impressed with the officiating when Jan Vertonghen was sent off for a second yellow card.

"It was Twenty Years Ago Today!" - This week 20 years ago we beat Zimbru Chisinau (Moldova) 3-0 in our first competitive game in Europe for 7 1/2 years. Now there has only been one year in the last 13 years when we have not played European football.

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