Wolverhampton Wanderers and Olympiacos are level pegging after the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie, a 1-1 draw in Piraeus setting up an intriguing return as the Greek side, winners at Arsenal in the round of 32, make their third visit to England in 2019/20.
• Wolves, in their first European adventure for 39 years, finished runners-up to Braga in Group K, accumulating 13 points, and were comfortable winners over fellow UEFA Europa League debutants Espanyol in the round of 32, a 4-0 first-leg win at Molineux preceding a 2-3 defeat in Barcelona.
• Olympiacos competed in the UEFA Champions League during the summer and autumn, coming through three qualifying ties before claiming third place in Group B behind Bayern München and Tottenham Hotspur. They lost 0-1 at home to Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg but recovered to win the return in London 2-1 thanks to a late extra-time strike from Youssef El Arabi that put them through on away goals.
• Wolves’ first UEFA encounter with opponents from Greece ended all square in Piraeus as a deflected 67th-minute strike from substitute Pedro Neto cancelled out an earlier El Arabi effort from close range.
• A 3-2 victory at Arsenal in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League group stage ended Olympiacos’s sequence of 12 defeats in as many visits to England. They have since drawn 1-1 at Burnley and lost 4-2 at Tottenham before claiming that all-important second win at Arsenal last month.
• The round of 32 success against Arsenal made it two consecutive victories in two-legged ties against English sides for Olympiacos following last season’s UEFA Europa League play-off win against Burnley (3-1 h). The Piraeus club had lost all of their six previous such ties.
• In their first season after promotion to the Premier League, Wolves finished seventh in 2018/19 to return to European competition for the first time since they lost in the first round of the 1980/81 UEFA Cup to PSV Eindhoven.
• Wolves began this UEFA Europa League campaign in late July and went on to win all six qualifying matches, knocking out Crusaders, Pyunik and, in the play-offs, Torino. They lost their opening group game, 0-1 at home to Braga, but took maximum points off Beşiktaş (1-0 a, 4-0 h) and Slovan Bratislava (2-1 a, 1-0 h) as well as drawing 3-3 in northern Portugal.
• The West Midlanders’ best European experience by some distance – and their only other springtime participation in UEFA competition – came in the inaugural UEFA Cup of 1971/72, when they went all the way to the final before losing 3-2 on aggregate to English rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
• The Matchday 1 defeat by Braga ended a seven-game European winning streak at Molineux that had lasted since Wolves were beaten 2-1 by Spurs in the first leg of that 1972 UEFA Cup final. They have won their three home games since, all with clean sheets, beating Slovan, Beşiktaş and Espanyol. Their home record in Europe this season is W6 L1 with 17 goals for and two against.
• Wolves have progressed on all three previous occasions when they drew the first away leg of a UEFA two-legged tie, including twice on their 1971/72 UEFA Cup run – in the quarter-final against Juventus (1-1 a, 2-1 h) and the semi-final against Ferencváros (2-2 a, 2-1 h).
• Second in the 2018/19 Greek Super League behind PAOK, Olympiacos went from the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round to the round of 32, where, having memorably eliminated AC Milan in the group stage, they were knocked out by Dynamo Kyiv (2-2 h, 0-1 a).
• This season Olympiacos returned to the UEFA Champions League group stage, earning their 19th participation with convincing qualifying victories over Viktoria Plzeň, İstanbul Başakşehir and Krasnodar. However, after drawing their opening group game against Tottenham, they lost the next four and were indebted to El Arabi’s 87th-minute penalty in their final fixture at home to Crvena zvezda for the win they needed to leapfrog the Serbian champions into third place.
• This is Olympiacos’s third appearance in the UEFA Europa League round of 16, the previous two having both ended in defeat – against Metalist Kharkiv, on away goals, in 2011/12 (0-1 a, 2-1 h) and Beşiktaş in 2016/17 (1-1 h, 1-4 a). The club have only ever reached two European quarter-finals – in the 1992/93 European Cup Winners’ Cup and the 1998/99 UEFA Champions League.
• Excluding the qualifying phase Olympiacos have lost nine of their last 11 European away fixtures, the exceptions a 2-0 win at Dudelange in last season’s UEFA Europa League group stage and the recent extra-time victory at Arsenal. In this season’s UEFA Champions League they were beaten at Crvena zvezda (1-3), Bayern München (0-2) and Tottenham.
• Olympiacos have won only one of the 13 UEFA ties in which they were held to a home first-leg draw – against Osmanlıspor in the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League round of 32 (0-0 h, 3-0 a). On the most recent of the four occasions that they drew the first leg 1-1 in Piraeus, against Beşiktaş in that same season’s round of 16, they lost the return in Istanbul 4-1.
Links and trivia
• Three Olympiacos players have had brief spells in England – Omar Elabdellaoui (who started his career in Manchester City’s youth team) at Hull City in 2016/17, Andreas Bouchalakis at Nottingham Forest in 2017/18 and Hilal Soudani, also at Forest, in 2018/19.
• The clubs are both led by Portuguese coaches. Nuno Espírito Santo (Wolves) and Pedro Martins (Olympiacos), who were Vitória SC team-mates in 1994/95, have met six times as head coaches in the Portuguese Liga. Martins’ Marítimo won two and drew two against Nuno’s Rio Ave in 2012/13 and 2013/14, but Nuno’s Porto won home and away against Martins’ Vitória SC in 2016/17.
• Nuno succeeded Martins as Rio Ave head coach in 2014.
• Wolves signed Daniel Podence from Olympiacos in January. The Portuguese winger scored for the Piraeus club at home to Tottenham in this season’s UEFA Champions League.
• Olympiacos defender Rúben Semedo played with Podence and Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patrício for Sporting CP in 2016/17, while the Greek side’s Portuguese ‘keeper José Sá was a team-mate of Willy Boly, Diogo Jota and Rúben Neves in Nuno’s Porto side that same season.
• El Arabi and Wolves defender Romain Saïss have been international team-mates for Morocco since 2012.
• Diogo Jota’s hat-trick for Wolves against Beşiktaş on Matchday 6, with goals in the 58th, 63rd and 69th minutes, was the third fastest in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final. When he replicated that feat against Espanyol in the round of 32 first leg, he became the first player to score a hat-trick on consecutive UEFA Europa League matchdays, although Klaas-Jan Huntelaar managed trebles on successive appearances for Schalke in 2011/12, on Matchdays 8 and 10, missing the game in between.
• Wolves were among six UEFA Europa League group stage debutants this season; only one of the others, LASK, are still involved. Ferencváros, Olexandriya and Wolfsberg were all eliminated in the group stage and Espanyol, by Wolves, in the round of 32.
• Olympiacos are one of four UEFA Champions League group stage participants to have reached the UEFA Europa League round of 16, along with Bayer Leverkusen, Internazionale and Shakhtar Donetsk.
• Olympiacos and Wolves are each playing their 16th European fixture of the season, making it both clubs’ longest ever continental campaign.
• Neither Wolves nor Olympiacos have ever featured in a UEFA penalty shoot-out.
• A former goalkeeper who was in Portugal’s UEFA EURO 2008 squad but never won a senior cap, Nuno Espírito Santo was mostly a back-up during his playing career but as a manager he is very much at the forefront, having emerged as a studious, progressive coach during spells at Valencia, Porto and, since May 2017, Wolves. He first made his mark by taking Portuguese provincial club Rio Ave to two cup finals and into Europe before shining in Spain during an 18-month stint at Mestalla. He led Wolves into the Premier League in his first season and into the UEFA Europa League in his second.
• Pedro Martins was named Olympiacos coach in April 2018, becoming the club’s fifth Portuguese boss in six years after Leonardo Jardim, Vítor Pereira, Marco Silva and Paulo Bento. Martins had not previously worked outside his homeland, his last three spells in the dugout before the move to Greece having brought UEFA Europa League qualification for Marítimo, Rio Ave and Vitória SC. A holding midfielder, he was capped once by Portugal during a three-year spell with Sporting CP from 1995–98.