Breaking Down Manchester United's Champions League Opponents

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentDecember 16, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  David Moyes manager of Manchester United applauds the travelling fans after the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester United at Villa Park on December 15, 2013 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The pre-match niceties have to be observed. Always.

Playing the team bottom of the league? "It'll be tough." Facing a side who haven't scored for six months? "It'll be a good test."

"David, you're playing a team who will have to field a free-range chicken in the centre of midfield."

"There are no easy games."

David Moyes will say all the right things when he's asked about the prospect of facing Olympiacos in the last-16 of the Champions League. He'll talk up their qualities, perhaps pointing to their record in the Greek league—"They're top, you know."

But while they are unlikely to include a farm animal in their starting XI, Olympiacos shouldn't pose a problem for Manchester United and their new manager.

They were beaten home and away by Paris Saint-Germain in the group stages, losing 4-1 at home. They qualified for the knockout rounds thanks to their results against Benfica, a narrow 1-0 win at home and a 1-1 draw in Portugal enough to sneak through.

They deserve credit for qualifying from a group which included PSG, Benfica and Anderlecht, who they beat home and away.

23 Oct 2001: Ryan Giggs of United holds off Dimitrios Mavrogenidis of Olympiakos during the match between Manchester United and Olympiakos in the Champions League Group G at Old Trafford, Manchester. Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford/ALLSPORT
Ben Radford/Getty Images

But they haven't got much to worry United, although West Brom and Newcastle weren't expected to win at Old Trafford, either.

United fans will recognise the name of Javier Saviola, the Argentinian striker who's had spells at River Plate, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Malaga. He's scored seven goals in 14 games in Greece's top flight this season, but at the age of 32, his powers are not what they were.

ATHENS, GREECE - SEPTEMBER 17:  Javier Saviola of Olympiacos FC in action during the UEFA Champions League group stage match between Olympiacos FC and Paris Saint-Germain FC held on September 17, 2013 at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens, Greece.
EuroFootball/Getty Images

They can also call on former Manchester City youngster Vladimir Weiss and Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell. Former United goalkeeper Roy Carroll is also in the squad, although he's strictly second choice.

It's certainly not a list that will have Moyes shaking in his suit. 

There will be pressure because United are expected to go through, but it's preferable to facing one of Europe's big boys.

It's been a difficult start to life at United for Moyes, but it was away in the Champions at Bayer Leverkusen that his team produced one of the best performances of his reign. If they can do it in Germany, they can certainly do it in Greece.

Moyes will follow the script in the build-up. If United do the same, they'll book their place in the last eight.