Bulgarian match official Georgi Kabakov is on coin-toss duty tonight. From Plovdiv, he was also in charge of Jose Mourinho’s most recent Champions League game, the aforementioned Manchester United defeat at the hands of Valencia.
Fun fact: Jose Mourinho will be the fifth different manager that Olympiakos has gone up against in as many games in this season’s Champions League matches.
Changes in personnel at Bayern Munich and Tottenham mean Martins has already stood in the adjacent technical area to Mauricio Pochettino, Vladan Milojevic, Niko Kovac and Hansi Flick. Tonight, he gets to watch Jose gesticulating at close quarters.
Jose Mourinho speaks
“I love the competition as much as everyone in football.,” said Tottenham’s new manager, before going on to demonstrate some of his new found humility. “Not everyone has the privilege to be a Champions League winner but I have done it twice. I would love to win it for a third time but this is not the moment to speak about it – this is the moment to qualify.”
Asked about his team’s chances of winning the tournament, he was typically bullish. “With these boys, I will never be afraid of any Champions League match,” he said. “We need to qualify, that’s the focus. Only when my teams arrive in the quarter-finals, I start thinking we can win it. At this moment, we are far from it and have to qualify. Give me time to work, put my ideas to these boys and I’ll go to any stadium to play against any big opponents in Europe or England and we won’t be afraid of anyone.”
Pedro Martins speaks
“We are here against a very good team but we have ambitions,” said the Olympiakos manager, ahead of a game his team must win if they are to keep their faint hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages alive. “We have done it before. If four months ago someone had said to us we’d be in the Champions League group stage and top of the Greek league, we’d be happy.”
Early team news
Ben Davies will be absent for Tottenham tonight after missing training yesterday with an ankle injury and could be replaced by Danny Rose. Erik Lamela remains sidelined with a thigh injury, while Jan Vertonghen is back in training but not expected to start.
Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld should start in the heart of the defence, while Tanguy Ndombele is also back in training after recovering from injury and could start in midfield at the expense of Harry Winks or Eric Dier.
For Olympiakos, midfielder Konstantinos Fortounis remains sidelined with an ACL injury he suffered back in July, while central defender Pape Abou Cisse is also a major doubt.
Group B: Tottenham Hotspur v Olympiakos
Under new management, Spurs go into tonight’s match against their Greek visitors knowing a win will guarantee their advancement to the knockout stages of the Champions League. A draw will be enough too, but only if Red Star fail to beat Bayern Munich in Belgrade.
One game into his reign at Tottenham, Jose Mourinho’s last involvement in the Champions League was as manager of a Manchester United side that lost 2-1 against Valencia last December. While United had already qualified for the knockout stages before kick-off in that particular defeat, he will certainly be hoping for a better performance from his new team on his first appearance in the home dug-out at White Hart Lane tonight.
Kick-off is at 8pm, but stay tuned for team news and build-up in the meantime.