After topping their Champions League group, Manchester United have been gifted a rather favourable draw in the form of Greek champions Olympiakos.
Confirming their status as group leaders will have left David Moyes content ahead of this Monday's draw and having seen group runners up Manchester City and Arsenal drawn against Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively, a kinder draw will be a much appreciated early Christmas present.
How they got there:
Having pipped Benfica to second, Olympiakos secured their progression to the knock out stages of the competition largely due to their superior performances in clashes against the Portuguese outfit. After claiming a 1-1 draw on a night of torrential downpour Lisbon, the Greek champions grasped the initiative when they welcomed Jorge Jesus' side back to the caldron of the Karaiskakis Stadium at the beginning of November where a Kostas Manolas' goal was enough to hand them a valuable win.
Maximum points taken from their games with Anderlecht ensured qualification thanks to their superior goal difference and head to head record. However losses to Paris Saint Germain demonstrated the gulf in class between teams hoping to compete in the upper echelons of this competition and those who are there to simply make up the numbers.
Who can cause the most damage:
With spells with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Benfica, Monaco and Sevilla, Javier Saviola has made a rather pleasant career for himself as one of the continent's more notable journeymen. The 32-year-old struck twice in his side's 3-1 win over Anderlecht as the Belgians were reduced to eight men and the striker's experience on the European stage will be a fundamental element to Olymipakos' hopes of catching United out, along with the finishing of leading goal scorer Konstantinos Mitroglou.
Elsewhere in the Olympiakos ranks, former Manchester City hopeful Vladimir Weiss will be hoping to inflict damage on the old adversary while former United stopper Roy Carroll also occupies a space in the squad. However only a spate of injuries will see the backup goalkeeper line up against his former employers.
Away from the Champions League, the Greeks are formidable. After 15 games in the Greek Super League, Olympiakos hold an eight point lead at the summit at the top having embarked on a goal laden sprint towards a third successive title and what would be a sixth in seven seasons.
The club have netted 45 goals in that time, having conceded just four. They have held the title of Greece's most potent force for three years now and fans will be desperate for the club to progress beyond the last 16 stage for the first time since 1999, where they were dismissed by Juventus before United themselves saw off the Italian challenge on their route to the final.
After being relieved of his duties by Sevilla in January of this year, former Real Madrid and Spain midfielder Michel was given the chance to dust himself off just weeks later in Greece. Having cut his teeth as head coach of Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid B and Getafe, Michel's first four months at the job saw him maintain Olympiakos' hold on top spot on the way to securing the title, and has made an excellent start to repeating that trick this campaign.
Difficult to envisage anything other than a United win in both ties.
To contact the editor, e-mail: