Defeated 2-1 in Bergamo, Greek champions Olympiacos must beat Atalanta in Piraeus if they are to claim their first victory over Italian opposition in a two-legged European tie for 50 years.
• Olympiacos finished runners-up in UEFA Europa League Group D behind Eintracht Frankfurt with three wins and three defeats, while Atalanta entered this competition after failing to make it three successful UEFA Champions League group stage campaigns in a row as they lost their win-or-bust final Group F fixture 2-3 at home to Villarreal, thereby remaining in third place, four points behind their Spanish conquerors and five adrift of section winners Manchester United.
• Atalanta’s Albanian international defender Berat Djimstiti was the star of the show in the first leg – the first meeting of the clubs in UEFA competition – as he struck twice in three minutes from corners, his first career double giving the Italian side a 2-1 victory after they had trailed at half-time to Tiquinho Soares’s early strike for Olympiacos.
• This is Olympiacos’s 28th UEFA match against Italian opponents, their record standing at W7 D5 L15. At home the figures are W4 D4 L5 with two wins in the last three games, most recently 3-1 against AC Milan on Matchday 6 of the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League group stage – their biggest victory against Italian visitors and a result that took the Greek side through to the round of 32 at the Rossoneri’s expense.
• This is the Greek champions’ first knockout tie against Italian opponents this century; their record in the previous seven is W1 L6, the only victory against Cagliari in the first round of the 1972/73 UEFA Cup (2-1 h, 1-0 a).
• Atalanta’s only previous pairing with Greek opposition was a 1987/88 European Cup Winners’ Cup second round tie against OFI Crete, in which they overturned a 0-1 first-leg deficit with a 2-0 win in Bergamo en route to reaching the semi-finals.
• Champions of Greece for a record-extending 46th time in 2020/21, when they finished 26 points ahead of runners-up PAOK, who defeated them 2-1 in the Greek Cup final, Olympiacos also finished third in their UEFA Champions League group before reaching the round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League – a repeat of the previous season.
• Pedro Martins’ side failed to return to the UEFA Champions League group stage this term, losing their first UEFA penalty shoot-out to Ludogorets in the third qualifying round following an earlier victory against Neftçi. A UEFA Europa League play-off win over Slovan Bratislava ensured group stage football, however, and they clinched a top-two berth with a game to spare after completing the double against Fenerbahçe (3-0 a, 1-0 h) despite losing both games to Eintracht Frankfurt, who eventually finished three points ahead of them at the top of Group D.
• Olympiacos are making a joint-record ninth appearance in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase. They are bidding to reach the round of 16 for the fifth time – and for the third successive season – though they have never made it beyond that stage of the competition.
• The Piraeus club have won just two of their 12 home games in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase (D5 L5) and had gone nine without a victory until they overcame PSV Eindhoven 4-2 in the first leg of last season’s round of 32. Their European home record this season is W4 D1 L1.
• Olympiacos have won just one of the 22 UEFA ties in which they were defeated away in the first leg. That, however, occurred in one of the three ties in which they had to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit in Greece – against Belgrade side Rad in the first round of the 1989/90 UEFA Cup (2-0 h). The last three ties in which they were eliminated after losing the first leg on the road all came in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, the most recent against Anderlecht in 2015/16 (0-1 a, 1-2 h).
• Atalanta finished third in last season’s Serie A to qualify for a third successive appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side were also runners-up to Juventus in the Coppa Italia, losing 2-1 in the final in Reggio Emilia.
• The Bergamo club had never featured in the UEFA Champions League before 2019/20, when they reached the quarter-finals on debut before falling to Paris Saint-Germain. They again reached the knockout phase in 2020/21, losing to Real Madrid in the last 16, but were unable to complete the hat-trick this term, managing just one win in their six group games – 1-0 at home to bottom-placed Young Boys – and finishing with six points.
• This is Atalanta’s second appearance in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase, the previous one, in 2017/18, having ended in the round of 32 with elimination by Borussia Dortmund (2-3 a, 1-1 h) after they had topped their group undefeated.
• The team from northern Italy are without an away win in four European matches (D2 L2), although they have scored eight goals in those games, seven in this season’s UEFA Champions League group, where they drew at Villarreal (2-2) and Young Boys (3-3) either side of a 3-2 defeat at Manchester United. Their six previous European away games in the spring have yielded just one win (D1 L4) – 4-3 at Valencia in the second leg of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League, Josip Iličić scoring all four goals to seal an 8-4 aggregate triumph.
• Atalanta’s record when winning the home first leg in UEFA competition is W2 L1, that tie against Valencia two years ago the most recent. This is the first time they have travelled to a European second leg with a 2-1 advantage.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Bandiougou Fadiga (Paris Saint-Germain), Kostas Manolas (Napoli), Garry Rodrigues
Out: Michał Karbownik, Svetozar Marković, Ahmed Hassan (Konyaspor), Nikitas Nikolis (Chania), Georgios Stamoulis
In: Jérémie Boga (Sassuolo, loan), Valentin Mihăilă (Parma, loan)
Out: Robin Gosens (Inter, loan), Josip Iličić, Matteo Lovato (Cagliari, loan), Roberto Piccoli (Genoa, loan)
Links and trivia
• Sokratis Papastathopoulos, an ever-present for Olympiacos in this season’s UEFA Europa League, played under Atalanta coach Gasperini at Genoa from 2008 to 2010, making 51 Serie A appearances. He also played in Italy for AC Milan (2010/11).
• Kostas Manolas rejoined Olympiacos in January from Napoli, having left the Piraeus club for Roma in 2014. The Greek international defender made 156 Serie A appearances in his five seasons with the Giallorossi and 60 in two and a half campaigns with Napoli. He faced Atalanta ten times in the league (W3 D4 L3), scoring once – a late equaliser for Roma in a 3-3 draw at the Stadio Olimpico on 27 August 2018.
• Olympiacos midfielder Yann M’Vila played eight Serie A games on loan with Inter in 2014/15.
• Olympiacos goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík and Atalanta striker Luis Muriel played together for Sevilla in the first half of 2018/19.
• Atalanta midfielder Mario Pašalić was a team-mate of Olympiacos’s Garry Rodrigues at Elche in 2014/15 and Rony Lopes at Monaco in 2015/16.
• Olympiacos are one of five reigning national champions involved in the UEFA Europa League knockout round play-offs.
• Olympiacos’s record in one UEFA penalty shoot-out is W0 L1:
1-4 v Ludogorets, 2021/22 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
• Atalanta have yet to feature in a UEFA penalty shoot-out.
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