Arsenal vs Olympiakos. UEFA Champions League. Emirates Stadium. 30th September 2015.
Arsenal take on Greek champions Olympiakos once again in the Champions’ League group stage with the Gunners eager to record their first three points of the European campaign. A 2-1 loss to Balkan minnows Dinamo Zagreb was arguably the worst possible start for Arsene Wenger’s men in the opening game and has placed even more emphasis on the North London side achieving a victory over the in-form Greek side.
Olympiakos have started their domestic season very impressively recording five wins out of a possible five conceding only three goals although they too suffered a defeat in their first European encounter of the season – losing 3-0 to German giants Bayern Munich.
Arsenal will be buoyed by their 5-2 demolition of an in form Leicester side on Saturday which saw star man Alexis Sanchez return to form and score his first hat-trick for the club with Theo Walcott also scoring to continue his recent good form whilst leading the line for the Gunners.
The last time the two sides met was during the 2012/13 season, Arsenal emerged victorious at the Emirates recording a 3-1 win but Olympiakos secured a memorable 2-1 victory at home. A promising statistic for Wenger’s men is that the Greek side have never achieved a single point at the Emirates in three previous attempts, the Greek side are notoriously bad travellers.
A huge morale boost for Wenger will be the offensive efficiency and clinical finishing Arsenal demonstrated at Leicester which means it is unlikely that the Gunners boss will make as many alterations to his side as he did in Zagreb.
Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal have formed the perfect defensive and offensive combination in the full back positions so they will most likely feature once again with erratic duo Kieran Gibbs and Mathieu Debuchy resuming their places on the bench. Olivier Giroud is serving his one match suspension so Walcott will most certainly lead the line and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to be the only offensive rotation with Aaron Ramsey likely to be the man to drop out after playing the full 90 minutes against Tottenham Hotspur in the last mid-week tie.
Francis Coquelin will not be risked with Manchester United just over the horizon so Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta will be the pivots in the heart of midfield with Mathieu Flamini suffering an injury against Leicester. Flamini is the only fresh injury concern for Wenger with Per Mertesacker returning to the side on Saturday after a spell on the side-lines.
Olympiakos come into the tie with a squad relatively unknown in the English game. Patjim Kasami and Esteban Cambiasso who have played for Fulham and Leicester respectively are probably the biggest household names in the squad with former West Brom striker Brown Ideye also part of the squad although the striker is yet to register a goal at his new club.
Midfielders Kostas Fortounis and Jimmy Durmaz have arguably been the stand out performers for the Greek side this season with their striker yet to register a domestic goal thus far this season. Marco Silva’s side have no fresh injury concerns and will likely field their strongest side possible in order to try and quarantine Arsenal’s creative technicians and offensive prowess.
Arsenal will be desperate to continue their recent good form in their last two games although they cannot afford to underestimate another weaker side in European competition after the embarrassment they suffered in Croatia. Wenger will no doubt recognise this and field a strong side even with a crucial game against Manchester United on the weekend.
Olympiakos do not possess players of a similar calibre that they have in yester years although they are the reigning champions in Greece and as stated previously have started their season in impressive fashion. They should provide a stern test for the Gunners but on home soil Wenger’s men should prevail and kick-start their Champions League campaign.
Predicted Arsenal team: (4-2-3-1).
Follow oohtobeagooner on Facebook
for more latest Arsenal transfer news, injury news, team news and rumours.