Olympiacos and Sporting CP seek winning start
Olympiacos FC and Sporting Clube de Portugal will both know the importance of a winning start as they meet in the opening round of Group D fixtures for the first time.
• With FC Barcelona and Juventus also in the section, three points for either side in Piraeus will give them some early impetus ahead of those tough fixtures to come.
• Olympiacos are in the group stage for an 18th time. They lost to Hapoel Beer-Sheva FC in last season’s third qualifying round, the first time they had missed out on the UEFA Champions League group stage since 2010/11.
• In 2016/17, the Greek side went on to reach the UEFA Europa League round of 16, falling 5-2 on aggregate to Beşiktaş JK.
• The Piraeus club earned a place in this season’s qualifying rounds by winning their 44th Greek championship in 2016/17 – their seventh in a row.
• Olympiacos opened this season with a 5-3 aggregate success against FK Partizan in the third qualifying round (3-1 away, 2-2 home). They then got the better of HNK Rijeka in the play-off round, coming through 2-1 at home and 1-0 away.
• That home victory against the Croatian club was Olympiacos’s first in five European home matches, ending a run of four successive draws on their own ground.
• Beaten 1-0 by SL Benfica in the 1973/74 European Cup first round second leg – their first visit from a Portuguese team, which confirmed a 2-0 aggregate defeat – Olympiacos have won all seven subsequent games against Liga visitors. Their most recent was a 2-1 home victory over FC Arouca in last season’s UEFA Europa League play-off second leg, completing a 3-1 aggregate triumph.
• Sporting are in the group stage for a third time in four years. In 2016/17, they came fourth in their group behind Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid CF and Legia Warszawa.
• Sporting qualified by finishing third in the Portuguese Liga in 2016/17.
• That win in Romania ended Sporting’s four-game losing streak in European away matches, and was just their second victory in their last 23 European away fixtures (D5 L16).
• The Lisbon club lost all three away games in last autumn’s UEFA Champions League group stage, extending their losing run in the competition proper away from home to five. Their last success outside Portugal came with a 1-0 victory at FC Basel 1893 on 9 December 2008; their record since is D1 L6.
• Sporting’s only experience of Greek opposition was a 4-1 home win against Panionios GSS in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage.
Coach and player links
• André Martins signed for Sporting in 2002, joining the Under-13 squad. He made his senior debut in 2011 and went on to amass more than 100 appearances before moving to Olympiacos in summer 2016.
• Has played in Greece:
André Pinto (Panathinaikos FC, 2012/13)
• Have played in Portugal:
Diogo Figueiras (CD Pinhalnovense 2010/11, Paços Ferreira, 2011–13, Moreirense FC 2012)
Sebá (FC Porto 2012/13, GD Estoril Praia 2013–15)
Felipe Pardo (SC Braga 2013–15)
Mehdi Carcela-González (SL Benfica, 2015/16)
• Pardo faced Sporting five times while at Braga, losing four and also tasting defeat in the last as Sporting lost the 2015 Portugual Cup final on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
• Have played together:
Sebá & Bruno César (Estoril, 2015)
Felipe Pardo & André Pinto (Braga, 2014–15)
Rodrigo Battaglia & André Pinto (Braga, 2013/14)
Stefano Kapino & André Pinto (Panathinaikos, 2012/13)
Jagoš Vuković & Radosav Petrović (Serbia)
• Besnik Hasi is undefeated in his first seven games as Olympiacos coach (W5 D2).
• Olympiacos have won eight of their last ten matches since losing 2-1 at home to AEK Athens FC in the first leg of their Greek Cup semi-final on 13 April.
• Centre-back Björn Engels struck 12 minutes into his debut on Saturday as Olympiacos drew 1-1 at Xanthi FC.
• Kostas Fortounis has scored four goals in six club appearances this season.
• Summer signing Panagiotis Tachtsidis has yet to make his debut for Olympiacos due to injury. However, he was an unused substitute for Greece in their recent European Qualifiers against Estonia and Belgium.
• Vuković suffered a hamstring injury while on international duty with Serbia and is expected to be sidelined for three to four weeks.
• Sporting have won six of their seven matches this season, drawing the other.
• For the second successive year, the Lions took maximum points from their first four Liga fixtures. Sporting lost their fifth game of the 2016/17 campaign but they won it this time courtesy of Bas Dost’s last-gasp clincher at CD Feirense on Friday.
• Dost – Portuguese Liga top scorer last season with 34 goals – has four domestic goals to his name this term, Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes three apiece. Dost and Martins also registered in the play-off second leg against FCSB.
• Sebastián Coates was on target on Friday, his first goal in ten months.
• Fábio Coentrão’s first international appearance since October 2015 was short-lived as he went off injured 27 minutes into Portugal’s 1-0 victory over Hungary in the European Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup on 3 September. He has not played since.
• Fernandes was called up by Portugal for the first time but was an unused substitute against the Faroe Islands and Hungary.