Konstantinos Mitroglou: What's happened to the Fulham striker?
Sky Sports News reporter Andy Burton looks at the curious case of Fulham's new signing after visiting his former club...
Last Updated: 03/03/14 5:18pm
The home side went into that game without Konstantinos Mitroglou, who had been sold to Fulham in the closing stages of the January transfer window, for a considerable fee (in excess of £12m).
Home fans were wondering where the goals would come from in his absence. As it turned out, they did just fine without him, but the levels of optimism would have been higher had Mitroglou still been with them. He was nicknamed "Pistolero" for his goal celebration, where he mimics firing a machine gun into the crowd. It all came about as he began gunning down defences on a regular basis for the Greek champions, apparently.
In early October, Mitroglou scored all three goals as Olympiakos beat Anderlecht at home. In doing so, he became the first Greek player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League. He is the country's most prolific goal-scorer in that competition, with nine Champions League goals to his name.
Before he was sold to Fulham, his contribution was significant as Olympiakos started to run away with the Greek title. They were 20 points clear when I landed in the city this week, and Mitroglou had scored 17 goals in 19 appearances, including four hat-tricks. It was the kind of form that would put him on the radar of scouts around the continent, and Fulham duly pounced on deadline day, reportedly breaking their transfer record in the process.
Mitroglou wasn't just a club hero in Athens - he was becoming iconic on a national level too. In November, he scored three goals over two legs as Greece beat Romania in the World Cup play-offs 4-2, qualifying for the Finals in Brazil. He will start for his country this summer without question; the fans will revolt if he doesn't.
Naturally, Fulham supporters were excited to see their new man in action. He made his debut for the club in the 1-1 Premier League draw against West Brom at The Hawthorns last Saturday, coming on for the final 29 minutes. He couldn't help his side secure all three points, but it was, by all accounts, a decent start.
However, at the club's Motspur Park training ground on Friday, Magath - a well-documented hard task-master - revealed that Mitroglou would not be involved in Saturday's match against Chelsea.
Magath cited a 'lack of fitness' as the reason behind Mitroglou's omission from the matchday squad. Whether he actually meant that is open to interpretation. Having given that quote in the broadcast section of his press conference (an answer you can watch for yourself here), he backtracked slightly in the written section of his Q&A session with the press. Whether he's not fit, not mentally ready, not yet accustomed to Magath's methods or unwilling to track back - we left without really knowing.
One German journalist sat near me in the press conference said his interpretation of Magath's words were that, in the Greek League, it's easy to play in an attacking role for a side that dominates every week - as Olympiakos certainly do. "The intensity of the Premier League is entirely different," he went on. Of course, he is right, but can Fulham fans be comfortable when their record signing is watching a derby with Chelsea from the Cottage, having made his debut at West Brom a week earlier?
There are not many neutrals, myself included, who will enjoy seeing Fulham relegated (if that is indeed what happens in May). A friendly club with good people working for them, trips to Craven Cottage are an enjoyable experience for those working in media, and fans of both sides. But the facts do not make encouraging reading for those hoping they can avoid the drop.
Fulham have failed to win any of their last seven Premier League games, losing five and drawing two. Whilst a point against Manchester United was a welcome surprise, and the point from the West Brom trip ensured they didn't lose ground that week on a team also in the relegation mix, their return of 11 points from the last 57 available has left them in a precarious position at the foot of the table.
They have been bottom since February 1, and this is the longest they have spent in 20th position since their promotion to the Premier League. Previously, they were bottom for one day in September 2011, and two days in August 2006. They have lost 18 League matches this season - never have they lost more in this division and the number will, in all likelihood, increase to an unwelcome club record by the time the season finishes.
Fulham have the worst defence in the Premier League (conceding 59 goals) and haven't kept a clean sheet in their last 12 games. In fact, they've kept only one clean sheet in their last 20 matches.
Admittedly, Mitroglou isn't likely to help them shut up shop defensively, but when you concede so many goals, you clearly need to score some at the other end if you're to take anything from games. Steve Sidwell is the club's top scorer with seven goals.
Fit or not, used to Premier League or not, surely there must be something Mitroglou could add to this side in the run-in? Time is running out, and you sense that if Mitroglou isn't fit, or isn't used to playing at this level, the only way he is going to adapt, is to play games.
Magath hopes Fulham can take advantage of the fact Chelsea experienced a draining trip to Turkey in the Champions League this week. He says it is nice to be in a league where the team that is bottom can host the leaders with genuine hopes of winning the game, something that he has not been used to in Germany.
He may not have realised that Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 15 matches against Fulham, and that the Cottagers' last win against their neighbours was in March 2006 when Luis Boa Morte scored the only goal. He won't be around to help them this time. Bizarrely, neither will Mitroglou.