It may screech to a halt tomorrow, or it could take us all the way to Cologne on the 21st. Either way, it’s been one hell of a ride.
From that balmy night in Turin to victory at Besiktas and that Ruben howitzer against Espanyol, we’ve already created memories to last a lifetime.
But we’re still in it and there’s no reason it should end here, so as Olympiakos come to town I thought it would be worth compiling a bit of research on our opponents and the challenges that lie ahead should Wolves advance to the quarter-finals and beyond.
Olympiakos won the Greek Super League with an astonishing 91 point from 36 fixtures with an 18 point gap to PAOK in second. They only lost once in the league all season.
They despatched Arsenal over two legs and despite playing the majority of the first leg against Wolves with a man less, they still could have emerged with a win. They’re talented and resilient which makes them a major threat.
33-year-old Youssef El Arabi is their danger man. The striker has scored 20 goals in the league and also put them ahead in the tie back in March. Fellow veteran Mathieu Valbuena is another threat both creating and scoring regularly.
Defender Ruben Semedo will miss the game having been the man sent off in the first leg and goalkeeper Jose Sa may also sit it out having picked up an injury.
Quarter Final – Roma / Sevilla
These two great clubs are already in Germany ready to battle it out over a single leg on Thursday to see who will face the winner of our tie and there probably isn’t a clear favourite.
Sevilla finished 4th in La Liga, level on 70 points with Atletico Madrid in third to qualify for the Champions League. They’re undefeated in all competitions since February. They’ve won this trophy a record five times, most recently in 2016.
Roma have won seven of their last eight, including a 3-1 victory over champions Juventus on the final day of Serie A. They also managed 70 points but it was only good enough for fifth.
Either way, if Wolves are able to progress beyond Thursday they’re going to have one hell of a game on their hands in the quarter final.
Semi-Final – Man Utd /
Istanbul Basaksehir / Copenhagen
Man Utd have to complete the formality of their second leg but 5-0 up from the away tie against LASK, we can consider them through to the quarter finals.
They’ll either play Turkish champions Istanbul Basakiehir or a Copenhagen side managed by a certain Ståle Solbakken. Basaksehir lead the tie 1-0 from the first leg.
Istanbul Basaksehir are the surprise package of the season taking their first ever league title, albeit with a modest 69 points from 34 games. They’re packed full of veteran ex-Premier League players like Gael Clichy, Demba Ba, Robinho and Martin Skrtel. They put out Sporting Lisbon in the last round so it’s clear they pose a significant threat.
Copenhagen finished second in their domestic league and stumbled through the group stage of this competition. They did however show incredible character to dump Celtic out in the previous round, winning 3-1 in the away leg, so you can’t bet entirely against them turning around the tie on their own patch.
I’d love to avoid Man Utd but if they turn up anything close to full strength, I struggle to see either of the above sides being good enough to beat them.
Final – Rangers / Leverkusen / Inter Milan / Getafe / Wolfsburg / Shakhtar Donetsk / Frankfurt / Basel
Rangers were turned over 3-1 by Leverkusen at Ibrox so it’s a long way back for Steven Gerrard’s men in the second leg tomorrow. I’ll be astonished if they turn that one around. Leverkusen boast one of Europe’s biggest talents in Kai Havertz, strongly linked with a silly money move to the Premier League.
Inter Milan and Getafe will contest a one-off contest tonight for the chance to face the winner of the above tie in the quarter finals. You’d have to fancy Inter, who only finished a point behind Juventus in a strong Serie A campaign. Getafe started the season well but ended horrendously to end the campaign 8th in La Liga.
Shakhtar Donetsk scored a 2-1 win in Wolfsburg from the first leg of their tie so will be favourites to advance with the home leg tonight. They comfortably won the Ukrainian Premier League, 23 points clear of Dynamo Kiev. Wolfsburg finished 7th in the Bundesliga and there’s little to suggest they’ll score the minimum two goals needed to progress here.
Basel won 3-0 in Frankfurt so are probably as good as through as they contest the home leg tomorrow. Progress in the Europa League is probably the highlight of their season having only finished 3rd in their domestic league, some 14 points off Young Boys in first.
In knockout football, you can never be certain of anything, but Inter Milan are the standout team on this side of the draw and the most likely opponent for whoever progresses from our half.
Olympiakos > Sevilla > Man Utd > Inter Milan
That’s the most likely pathway to winning the Europa League, underlining the tremendous challenge that lies ahead.
As Nuno says, it’s never wise to think beyond the next game (thus he would probably think less of me for even producing this rundown), but as he also stated not so long ago – dreaming is for free.