|Hulk, in Dortmund, on Tuesday
Manchester: If history was the only deciding factor then Manchester United would be highly fancied to overturn their 0-2 first leg defeat against Olympiakos and reach the quarter finals, of the Champions League, on Wednesday.
But the reality for manager David Moyes and his stuttering team is that present form, rather than past successes, will have a far bigger influence at Old Trafford.
United’s unimpressive season reached a new low on Sunday when they were crushed 0-3 at home by bitter rivals Liverpool, a result that left last season’s champions seventh in the Premier League with just a remote possibility of a top-four finish.
They were also not helped when sources claimed that the veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs had been involved in a dressing-room bust-up with Moyes. Giggs, though, had dismissed the rumours.
United’s only realistic hope of competing alongside Europe’s elite next season would now appear to be by somehow winning the competition for a fourth time in May, starting by knocking Olympiakos out on Wednesday.
“The players are well aware of what it means on Wednesday and what we have got to do,” Moyes said. “We’ve got something to go for so hopefully we can do that.”
Misfiring United, who last failed to qualify for the Champions League 18 years ago, have no guarantees at all of achieving their aim against the Greeks who have just won their domestic title for the fourth successive season.
Their head-to-head record, and the Greek side’s woeful record on the road against English clubs, does offer hope.
Until Olympiakos triumphed in Athens on February 25, United had won all four of the previous matches between the clubs.
They have also won all five matches they have played against Greek clubs at home while Olympiakos have lost all 11 of the matches they have played in England. But they arrive at Old Trafford buoyed by a comprehensive title victory, even if Sunday’s 2-0 win over Panthrakikos was achieved behind closed doors.
Moyes could shake up his team following Sunday’s defeat with Nani, Javier Hernandez and Jonny Evans all training again after injuries.
But Moyes must do without central defenders Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, who remain on the sidelines with hamstring and calf injuries respectively.
Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund’s hot-tempered coach Juergen Klopp has barred fans from watching the team train this week as he seeks a calm lead-up to the side’s round of 16 second leg tie against Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday.
Klopp was banished to the stands for dissent in a 1-2 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday as Dortmund lost their fourth league game of the season on the weekend prior to a Champions League match.
Klopp has had to contend with a host of injuries since the start of the season and Wednesday’s game will continue the trend as several key players miss out, including Sven Bender, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Ilkay Guendogan.
There is some good news, however, after Robert Lewandowski returned to action on Saturday and has been ruled fit to face the Russians.