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Sep 16, 2021 at 8pm UK
AntwerpRoyal Antwerp
El-Arabi (52'), Reabciuk (87')
Abou Cisse (49'), Camara (67')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Samatta (75')
Verstraete (4'), Bataille (52')
Bataille (90+1')

Preview: Olympiacos vs. Royal Antwerp - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Olympiacos vs. Royal Antwerp - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Olympiacos and Royal Antwerp, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Olympiacos welcome Royal Antwerp to the Karaiskakis Stadium for the opening game of the 2021-22 Europa League on Thursday evening.

Both sides successfully navigated the qualifying round but will be looking to improve on disappointing starts to their respective league campaigns as they meet for the very first time.

Match preview

Olympiacos come into the game on the back of a shock goalless draw at home to Atromitos in the season-opener of the Greek Super League on Sunday.

The Greek champions have triumphed in nine of the last 11 seasons but were unable to overcome a team who usually find themselves in and around the mid-table spots.

They created opportunity after opportunity and piled on the pressure as the match drew to a close but could not find the back of the net and were forced to settle for a single point, as rivals Panathinaikos won and now sit atop the league standings.

The Thrylos were far more successful in their two previous competitive games, as they comfortably secured their spot in the group stage of this competition by virtue of a 5-2 aggregate victory over Slovan Bratislava in the playoff round.

Most of the legwork was done in a 3-0 home win in the first leg, and manager Pedro Martins will be hoping they can recreate that kind of fast start on Thursday, rather than their slow one in the league.

Antwerp did win their most recent league game - a Michael Frey goal securing a narrow 1-0 victory over AS Eupen - but they are far from where they would expect to be in a campaign that is much further along than their Greek counterparts.

New manager Brian Priske has endured a tough start to life in Belgium, after a successful reign at FC Midtjylland, and his side find themselves down in 12th in the Belgian First Division A.

The Great Old sit on just eight points after their opening six games, with the season having started with back-to-back league defeats at the hands of Mechelen and Kortrijk, and have also made hard work of their progress in the Europa League.

A third-placed finish in the top flight last season granted Antwerp entry to the competition at the playoff round, meaning only a two-legged affair with Omonia of Cyprus stood between them and the group stage.

They lost the first leg 4-2, however, and - after Pieter Gerkens pulled them level in the 84th minute of the second leg - required penalties to progress.

Olympiacos Europa League form:
  • W
  • D

Olympiacos form (all competitions):
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • D

Royal Antwerp Europa League form:
  • L
  • W

Royal Antwerp form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W

Team News

Konstantinos Fortounis is the only injury concern for Olympiacos, but that means Martins must once again work around the absence of his creative hub, as he works his way back from a cruciate ligament rupture.

Goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik has recovered from the leg injury he sustained while on international duty and should retain his spot in goal.

It remains to be seen how much the manager chooses to rotate his side for this tournament.

Antwerp have far more injury problems, with Michel-Ange Balikwisha, Fars Haroun, Sam Vines and Alhassan Yusuf all sidelined by fitness issues.

Furthermore, Sander Coopman and Bruny Nsimba will undergo late evaluations to determine their availability, as they look to return from ACL and foot injuries respectively.

Both sides look likely to line up in their regular 4-4-2 formation.

Olympiacos possible starting lineup:
Vaclik; Reabciuk, Cisse, Sokratis, Ba; Onyekuru, Lopes, M'Vila, Valbuena; Soares, El Arabi

Royal Antwerp possible starting lineup:
Butez; Bataille, De Laet, Engels, Buta; Verstraete, Nainggolan, Gerkens, Benson; Eggestein, Frey

We say: Olympiacos 1-0 Royal Antwerp

Both teams will be determined to get off to a positive start in Group D, but will surely be wary of an opening defeat, so it could be a cagey match.

Olympiacos have shown a penchant for draws in recent weeks but have a much higher pedigree than their visitors and, despite not being in the best of form, the difference in quality should see them secure the three points.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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