Greece is indeed the word as we return to Champions League action this evening.
City face Olympiakos both home and away in our next two Champions League group stage matches and at least one victory from those games should put us in a very strong position in terms of qualification for the Round of 16.
It should be an entertaining game with the Greek side more likely to play an open, attacking game – at least that’s the verdict of our very special guest columnist Georgios Samaras.
Georgios played for City between 2005 and 2008 and remains our only Greek player, and in his new roles as Vice President of OFI Crete, he is well-positioned to share his thoughts on tonight’s opponents.
In fact, Georgios is also the subject of our ‘Pick That One Out’ goal recreation – remember that stunning volley against West Ham United in 2007? Our illustration should help if your memory of it is a bit sketchy.
Elsewhere, we have Pep Guardiola’s manager notes ahead of the game, and Club Ambassador Mike Summerbee fondly remembers his old friend Nobby Stiles who sadly passed away late last week.
And we have a celebratory gallery of our Women's FA Cup and FA Youth Cup triumphs over the weekend.
We also have a detailed focus on our opponents, as well as BBC Radio 6 Music’s Marc Riley and his sideways look at all things City.
Kev Cummins gets a day off from mining his enviable archive to provide us with his Dream Team, and a new feature, ‘Origins’, looks at a terrace chant from City fans and how it came into being.
As always, thanks everyone for reading our digital matchday programme – the feedback for the men’s and women’s versions has been fantastic and they’ve been great fun to do.
Enjoy the game and come on City!
Pep's pre-match thoughts...
Good evening and welcome to Pedro Martins and his Olympiakos team for Match Day 3 in the UEFA Champions League.
Pedro has had great success with them since taking over at the helm, winning a league and cup double last season and we are aware of the big challenge that they will pose tonight.
Olympiakos are one of the most historic teams in Greece with more than 40 championships to their name. They know what it takes to be competitive in this competition.
The high standard of the opposition is why you can never allow your guard to slip at any stage – including the groups games.
In the Champions League you cannot fake a step. If you do, you struggle. You cannot put out weaker teams and expect to win and progress. We have made the perfect start to our campaign with victories over Porto here at the Etihad Stadium and over Marseille last week and securing points at home is vital to winning the group.
If we win tonight then we take a big step towards that aim of qualification, but that means taking nothing for granted and playing with the purpose and concentration that we showed at Sheffield at the weekend and in France seven days ago.
We have not lost in the last seven games in all competitions and we are getting better. We have recovered well from the trip to Yorkshire and earning a hard three points against a tough and difficult opponent and now we are ready to go again.
Tonight, we are not thinking about Liverpool this weekend or any other teams. We want to qualify; that is the first step. Qualifying for the knockout stages is most important thing. We handled the first two games so well and we were in control.
People sometimes do not believe how difficult the group games can be. Every single game is tough. That is why I am delighted with what we have done so far.
Porto is a team that always must win. Olympiakos the same. They must win every single game. That is their mentality, and it is difficult to play against. Tonight, is a huge opportunity for us to make an incredible step.
Wherever you are watching from, enjoy the game and stay safe.
Club Ambassador Mike Summerbee remembers Nobby Stiles...
It’s very difficult to write an article for the matchday programme when the people around you are sadly passing away.
I’m sure we have all had our fill of 2020 and all the despair and heartache it has brought with it, but we must soldier on and believe things will get better sooner rather than later.
It seems I am talking about a lost friend in every other issue lately and the loss of Nobby Stiles is yet another.
I always called him Norbert, and he was a great friend and a superb player for Manchester United.
He was a great competitor and part of a great United side that won the league and the European Cup and we had many skirmishes over the years in derby matches, but once the final whistle went, we were the same friends that we had ben before kick-off.
Norbert was very good at his job, but a quiet man off the pitch. He was a great coach as well, as we’ve heard of late from people like Gary Neville.
I was fortunate enough to travel with him on an England tour and were in the beautiful city of Florence ahead of a game against Italy and we went out for a walk in the city centre.
We came across a lovely shop selling porcelain and glass figurines, so we popped inside and Nobby spotted a glass paperweight directly above a display of delicate porcelain figures – and it slipped out of his hand and smashed the centrepiece of the display below.
We bolted out of the shop within seconds.
We were halfway down the street with owner shouting, “Stop, it’s OK! No problem, don’t run away! We have insurance!”
I’ve never forgotten that and we had some great fun over the years.
Nobby had a big heart and was a lovely person. I’d not seen him for a few years because of the condition he had, but he was a great man and I will miss him.
We need to appreciate and enjoy the time we around loved ones and friends and savour every minute because you don't get any second chances.
Back on the pitch, we have Olympiakos this evening on the back of excellent wins in Marseille and Sheffield.
I’m sure we are all heartily sick of playing in front of empty stadiums and it is so hard for the players who are having to motivate themselves without the fans behind them.
I find it hard just to watch in an empty stadium,
Our lads are doing fantastic and I’m proud of the way they are handling this and the way we are playing.
At the risk of repeating myself, let’s hope this all ends soon so we can go back to some kind of normality.
I’ll be back for the weekend clash with Liverpool, but until then, stay safe and take care of your loved ones.
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OLYMPIAKOS: the season so far
A closer look at tonight's opponents...
Olympiakos arrive at the Etihad having played only six Greek Super League 1 matches.
Last season’s champions started their campaign off with 1-0 win over AEK Athens in the Greek Cup, with a goal from Lazar Randelovic enough to progress into the next round.
The opening Super League 1 fixture saw a comfortable 3-0 win over Asteras Triplois – all three goals coming after the break with Konstantinos Fourtonis and a brace from Giorgos Masouras on target.
Champions League qualification for the 33rd time was secured against Omonia Nicosia – a 2-0 win in Greece and 0-0 draw in Cyprus ensuring passage to the group stages, with a 2-0 league win over fierce rivals Panathinaikos sandwiched in-between – Youssef El-Arabi and Cafu on target in that game.
That was followed by a 1-1 draw away to PAS Giannina, recovering from going behind on five minutes with a goal from El-Arabi’s 51st-minute leveller.
The Red-Whites then recorded a 4-0 win over fellow Athens-based Atrimitos, with the dangerous El-Arabi grabbing a second-half hat-trick and Koka adding another during a comprehensive 4-0 victory.
The opening Champions League group stage game saw Olympiakos grab and added time winner from Koka to beat Marseille 1-0.
But the 45-times Super League champions were beaten 2-0 by Porto in their next game, with the Portuguese scoring a goal in each half to register their first group win.
Koka was again on target in the next game –scoring both goals in a 2-0 home Super League 1 win over Appolon Smirins.
That leaves Olympiakos in second spot, three points behind leaders Aris but having played a game less.
Their hopes of progression in the Champions League almost certainly depend on their results at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
The Greeks have only reached the quarter-finals once in 33 attempts.
City have never met Olympiakos competitively, with the only game of note being the 2006 Thomas Cook Trophy on 6 August 2005 – a certain Yaya Toure giving the Greek champions the lead before Darius Vassell and a brace from Bradley Wright-Phillips secured a 3-1 victory for City.
Historically, Olympiakos have a poor record against English sides, losing 14 of their 16 matches on English soil.
our man in greece
Former City favourite Georgios Samaras gives us inside track on Olympiakos
Georgios Samaras remains City's only Greek player. Signed as a 20 year-old in 2006 at a cost of £6.5m, he went on to make 64 appearances and scoring 12 goals.
In January 2008, he moved to Celtic on loan, making the switch permanent in the summer and went on to win four SPL titles during a successful seven-year stay at Celtic Park. Still only 35, he has now retired and is Vice President at his hometown OFI Crete. where he is part of a movement to help transform Greek football.
Georgios knows Olympiakos well, and here, he tells us what we should expect...
"Olympiakos are one of the biggest clubs in Greece and I think they have been in the Champions League every year for the past 20 years, so they are experienced and they know this tournament," says Samaras.
"They have quality players and they have the same coach for the past two and a half years, so they have a philosophy and a game plan and they are not afraid to play.
"They don’t have the same quality at City do, but they can play without fear. Their mentality will be to go and win this game, because that what they have to do each week in the Greek league – as they did against Marseille and they tried to do against Porto – so they will play their game and not try change to much or get a result by any means.
"Against City or team in that bracket, it will be difficult of course, because City will look to dominate the game from the start, but Olympiakos have the ability to defend, keep the ball and create chances because of their experience in the Champions League.
"If City control the game from the first minute, it will be hard for Olympiakos because it’s hard for any team to defend against that sort of attack and be under constant pressure.
"City are the favourites, for sure, but they need to be 100% focused so there are no surprises, because Olympiakos are capable of surprises and they will have their chances – whether they take them or not when they come along will be key.
"I expect Olympiakos to have a spell, whether that is five minutes, 10 minutes, or 15 minutes – that is up to City – but in the end, they have nothing to lose because nobody expects them to win. They won’t be criticised by their fans or the media if they do lose, so they can have some freedom in this respect.
The fact Olympiakos won’t have their fans behind them for the return game in Greece is a big disadvantage because they would normally have 30,000 fans making a great atmosphere.
"It’s my personal opinion that if you play in Manchester, Glasgow, or Athens, it is exactly the same – it’s just a game of football on a pitch – the fans are everything and can change the game.
"On the south side of Europe and around the Baltic area, the fans are a big advantage for the clubs because they push them, so without them, it is harder. Now there are no home teams and no away teams.
"Olympiacos have played Arsenal, Real Madrid, and Barcelona so they know this competition and are in it on merit."
Favourite City songs and where they came from...
'Feed the Goat (and he will score)'
"I really can’t remember when I first heard the song ‘Feed The Goat’ but I loved it! I recall the lads coming in at half-time and saying ‘did you hear that song, Goat? They’re singing about you,’ and it just caught on.
"Some people reckon it was during the 4-0 win over Fulham, others in the away win at Forest – I don’t know who thought it up, but I definitely owe them one. The fans would sing it when I scored and if I didn’t find the net, I’d put in a few strong challenges and they’d start up again – I wanted to keep that song going! "
– Shaun Goater
(To the tune of Bread of Heaven)
"Feed the Goat, feed the Goat,
Feed the Goat and he will score!
Feed the Goat and he will score! "
One of the most popular chants of the past 50 years, ‘Feed The Goat’ was the serenading fans’ anthem for terrace idol Shaun Goater.
With a tune taken from the famous Welsh hymn 'Bread of Heaven, Goater, considered a journeyman striker when he joined City from Bristol City in 1998, gradually won over the supporters to the point he was revered as a playing Club legend. His numerous goals won him wider recognition as a goal poacher par excellence and the dignity and humility of such a great goal-scorer further endeared him to the City fans and spawned further classics such as ‘Who Let The Goat Out?’ and ‘All I Need is the Air that I Breathe (and Shaun Goater)’. ‘
'Feed The Goat’ appeared around 1999 and became a song popular throughout football (copied and adapted accordingly by other clubs). Still occasionally sung today and saved for special occasions, Goater and this chant are interwoven into the Club’s fabric and popular culture.
JUNIOR CITYZEN OF THE MATCH
Name: George Shatford
From: Grays, Essex
Favourite player: Kevin De Bruyne
George’s story: “I have supported City from a young age - just like my dad when he was young. When I started playing football myself, I grew a passion for City and hope to continue to support City for my entire life. My most favourite and best moment was when we won the treble in the 2018/19 season. My favourite game was when we beat Liverpool 4-0 last season.”
One of the best rock photographers in the business and lifelong Blue Kev Cummins has been contributing to our matchday programme for a decade or so.
About time he got his all-time City XI choices out there, then...
Take it away, Kev...
"Choosing a best City XI is something we all do to while away the hours on long trips. At one time, it was more fun to chose a worst City XI , as the best XI were pretty much cast in stone, as I’m sure many of a certain age would agree.
"Also you have to chose players who were favourites or the best of that generation of players. Otherwise we’d all chose an XI of players from the past five years.
"I’m also restricting myself to players I’ve actually seen play - in person.
So, as much as I currently think Ruben Dias might walk into a side like this one day, I haven’t actually seen him play, other than on TV, obviously.
David James is still the best ‘keeper I’ve seen in a City shirt, and not just for his Martyn Margetson style of play in the opposition box. Seriously though, James commanded the area, was a great reader of the game and until the era of Ederson, would have been seen as one of the greatest goalkeepers of the modern age if the press hadn’t got on his back with their pathetic ‘Calamity James’ jibes.
Tony Book and Ray Ranson were both great defenders. Strong in the tackle and both read the game well. Both were also ‘over-lapping full-backs’ as they were called back then. Most City fans wondered what all the fuss regarding George Best was about whenever we played United. Tony Book had him in his pocket every game.
Watson and Kompany as centre backs needs no explanation. I doubt any team would score if we had this pair at their peak in the same side - especially with Mike Doyle - the enforcer - protecting them, although they were both more than capable of looking after themselves.
Buzzer and Raz could be interchangeable on the wings and both can play as a false number nine too, if needed. Their versatility would create confusion for the opposition every game.
With Colin the King and El Mago patrolling the inside channels at 8 and 10 and causing havoc with their tight control and ability to see a pass out of nothing, there are plenty of strikers who would love to play with that forward line.
But there’s only one striker who would score 50+ a season with the chances they’d make for him. And that’s Kun Aguero. The most natural finisher in the game today.
We’ve had some good managers and we’ve had, erm, well let’s face it, we’ve had a lot of managers. I’d love to see Big Mal make something from my selection, but I think the players would be confused by his array of tactics - they’d enjoy the nights out though!
Similarly with Kevin Keegan at the helm. One of the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever met. But the manager of the Kevin Cummins City Select XI would have to be Pep - and who wouldn't love to have seen a young Gio learning from the master?
If you’re looking for ideas during lockdown Pep, I’m here all season. So here we go. My world -beating City XI is as follows:
The life of riley
The world seen through the blue-tinted glasses of BBC 6 Music DJ Marc Riley
Hearing the news that Pep hopes to continue his reign at Manchester City for the foreseeable future was welcomed in a serious style by yours truly when it came through last week. Not only because of the fact that we are holding onto the greatest football manager in the world - but more importantly because I’ve just got hold of a City shirt signed by the man himself.
Not that I put my own personal interests above those of the club you understand. Not for a minute….
All this unfolding at a time when media speculation about Pep going back to Barcelona is in overdrive - this despite the fact that the man himself has dispelled the rumour 100%.
When I was a ‘music journalist' (it didn't last long) I was paid by the word. It’s a dangerous system. Whereas I could quite easily have decimated a boyband's career in 20 words or less, I usually took at least 250. One has to put food on the table, eh? I can only assume the same fiscal arrangements are in place to this day
We all know how it works though? The merry-go-round of rumour and speculation is probably tiresome for those caught up in it, but for the journalists and agents it proves to be a valuable tool. Agents tell journalists a dubious story of less than honourable intent… the journalists ( knowing full well it is dubious in essence) report on it. The club deny it. Other club’s chose to believe it… (whilst really knowing its fairy-tale nature) and approach the agent - who then can legitimately claim the story to be true.
I think the phrase ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ was invented many centuries ago, but always with an eye to the future when it would come into its own. i.e: Modern Day Football.
In his press conference last Friday Pep also sang the praises of the latest exciting partnership to don MCFC shirts. I’m of course talking about Phil Foden and Ferran Torres. There’s no doubt in my mind that opposing teams will roll their eyes to the skies when they see those two names either on the starting 11 sheet… or on the touchline waiting to enter a game.
Very exciting times ahead there, methinks.
At time of writing word has just come through of the passing of Nobby Stiles. Not only a legend in footballing terms but a ‘proper character’. Who couldn't love the footage of him jigging around Wembley with the World Cup?