WOLVES welcome Olympiakos to Molineux for the second leg of their Europa League Last 16 fixture on Thursday. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) shares his verdict.
Wolves vs Olympiakos | Thursday 6th August 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
One-hundred-and-40-days have passed since Wolves played out a 1-1 draw against Olympiacos at the Karaiskakis Stadium. Pedro Neto’s away goal gives Old Gold a slight advantage coming into this second leg.
The aim for Wolves is simple – win this competition to qualify for European football next season. Defeat at Chelsea on the final day meant a seventh-place finish in the Premier League, but that wasn’t good enough after Arsenal’s FA Cup win on Saturday.
It was a rather flat end for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side at Stamford Bridge. It wasn’t their usual performance, it lacked in energy, seeing just one shot on target, so a bit of a break might serve as a boost to recharge their batteries.
Their Greek opponents will pose them a few problems. Olympiacos dropped out of the Champions League, but gave Spurs a run for their money in two group games – they led 2-0 in London before going down 4-2.
In the previous round of this competition, they took Arsenal to extra-time where Youssef El-Arabi’s 119th-minute goal proved decisive. And after the first leg, Wolves know the dangers after the Greek side took the lead, that’s despite having Ruben Semedo dismissed.
Wolves’ record at Molineux is quite strong across all competitions this season – W14-D9-L5. In the Premier League, they only lost four times here, and those defeats came against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea & Spurs – clubs known for their European exploits.
But one well-documented thing was around their slow starts. If you break down the Premier League numbers, you’ll see they scored 14 first-half goals compared to 37 in the second. And, that figure of 37 was only bettered by Liverpool (41) and Man City (54).
While playing teams from the continent, the pattern is somewhat similar, especially here at Molineux. Nineteen goals have been scored here in this competition with 16 of those coming after half-time (84%). That’s huge!
The hosts have that all-important away goal giving them the edge. That forces Olympiacos’ hand, but it won’t make them gung-ho. It’ll be a case of keeping it tight for as long as possible to keep Wolves at arms-length.
But the Erythrolefki will have to do it without ‘keeper Jose Sa, who picked up an injury in training, and the suspended Ruben Semedo. That weakens their defence, which is strong in the Greek league, but porous in Europe.
The betting angles
Wolves have been chalked up as 4/6 favourites, but they have tended to make heavy weather of multiple matches. Four of seven games in the Europa League have been level at the break before Old Gold went on to win. And, that includes 4-0 wins over Besiktas and Pyunik.
Their strength in depth and power-packed frontline should have too much for the Greek side, so if you feel Wolves are a tad tight pricewise in the outrights, it might be worth a dip into the half-time/full-time market.
Taking the draw at the break and the hosts going on to win looks worth backing at 7/2 with Sky Bet. It’ll be interesting to see if Nuno starts Adama Traore given his shoulder issue, plus they’ve got former Olympiacos man Daniel Podence who has speed to burn from the bench.
With the state of play, Wolves scoring a late winner wouldn’t be too much of a shock.
I’m also dipping into the cards markets with what’s at stake. There were 65 Bookings Points in the first leg with both sides picking up 20+. On Sky Bet, they go 8/11 for 20+ Bookings Points, but both Bet Victor and Bet365 are 11/10 for Over 1.5 Cards.
Pole Szymon Marciniak has the whistle for this, and I always consider him to be a whistle-happy official. In five games across the Europa League and Champions League, he averages a whopping 30 fouls per game.
The former midfielder averages four cards per game in Europe, which looks good for backing cautions. So, the tough-tackling types will need to watch their step – I’m looking at you Romain Saiss!
He was at Ibrox in March for Rangers’ 3-1 defeat against Bayer Leverkusen. That saw him award a penalty to the Gers and book seven players – three Rangers and four for Leverkusen.
In his domestic league, he’s also been fairly busy – 167 yellows and eight reds across 36 games is quite a big amount. Break it down further and he’s shown 22 yellows and three reds in his last five games.
It’s hard to ignore an odds-against price for this when you’ve got a card-happy official who takes no messing.
One other thing to consider is the player who starts at left-back for Olympiacos. In the first leg that was Konstantinos Tsimikas and he committed three fouls without being carded. There’s a range of prices available for him to see a card with the 7/2 with Unibet taking the eye.
He’ll come up against speedster Adama Traore and it’s well-known how often he’s been fouled, with plenty of those resulting in a booking.
Wolves v Olympiacos – Draw/Wolves (7/2 Sky Bet)
Wolves v Olympiacos – Both Teams Over 1.5 Cards (11/10 Bet Victor)