Greek giants Olympiacos visit Arsenal this week in the group stage of Champion’s League, in a draw that is being undoubtedly dealt with as a must win by the hosts. For the visitors, who have been in fine form, this is a game that they will not want to lose after an unmatched performance against Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich, who also happen to be in the same group as the two teams. Both Arsenal and Olympiacos have suffered recent defeats in the Champion’s League and both teams will be in it for the win. Here we look at the Preview, Predicted Line up (Arsenal) and a brief insight into the history between the two clubs.
Arsenal: Arsenal have returned to the form they ended their last campaign with, thumping away with a 5-2 victory against Leicester City in the Premier League, a team who had till that moment enjoyed the best start to a premier league campaign in over 3 decades. Prior to that, the Gunners also knocked out fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur off the Capital One Cup thanks to an unexpected yet beautifully delivered brace from Mathieu Flamini. Arsenal go into this game having lost their opener in the Champion’s League to Dinamo Zagreb, in a game that saw Olivier Giroud sent off. With this backdrop, Arsenal view this game against Olympiacos as a must win, if they are to stay strong in the Champion’s League given that they have a difficult group as it is. With a stunning hat trick at the weekend, all eyes will be upon Alexis Sanchez to deliver for the Gunners.
Olympiacos: Barring their defeat to Bayern Munich in the champion’s league, the Greek side have been in fine form in their domestic league registering a 100% win rate. With a new boss in Marco Silva and a number of good signings to their side in Esteban Cambiasso, Brown Ideye and Pajtim Kasami, the side have bolstered their squad adequately. Additionally, the young and versatile Kostas Fortounis is arguably the biggest threat for the gunners. He has been in fine form scoring 5 goals this season already. Fortounis is versatile in that he can play in a variety of positions; as a striker, attacking midfielder, a deep lying central midfielder and a winger. Needless to say, he would be the man to watch out for.
Predicted Line up
Arsene Wenger is likely to put up his strongest team against the Greek Side, simply to ensure that his team wins. Here is Arsenal’s possible line up;
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech
As mentioned above, Wenger would want to put his strongest team; which implies that he would want to put the strongest players in each position, and especially in positions that are pivotal. The goalkeeping role will be crucial here, and one need not be surprised if Petr Cech makes his Champion’s League debut for Arsenal ahead of David Ospina
Central Defense : Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny
Arsenal’s most reliable central defensive partnership for over 2 seasons now, there is little chance that Gabriel Paulista or Calum Chambers would replace either the French boss or the German Giant if the two centre halves are fit.
Full Backs: Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal
Hector Bellerin has consistently kept full time France international Mathieu Debuchy out of the starting lien up especailly in the crucial games and there is little doubt that he is now Arsenal’s first choice right back. This of course raises questions about Debuchy’s future at Arsenal, but let us not dwell there at the moment. On the left, despite Kieran Gibbs performing well against Spurs, there is much doubt whether he has done enough to replace the in form Spaniard Nacho Monreal.
Central Midfield: Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin
This is Wenger’s current favourite midfield pairing, having assigned Santi Cazorla a deeper role in the team . Francis Coquelin has returned from his minor injury and as a first choice defensive midfielder, will replace Mathieu Flamini, who along with club captain Arteta is out with a minor injury.
Attacking Midfielder: Mesut Ozil
Need we guess? Regardless of whether Wenger has another option for this position going into this match (which he does not at the moment) , Ozil is the team’s first choice player in this position and he will continue to occupy it upfront behind the striker
Left Wing: Alexis Sanchez
Like always, he will constantly switch places with Ozil and his teammate on the right flank.
Right Wing: Aaron Ramsey
This is possibly the only position for which, Wenger will have to do some thinking, given that he has 3 players fighting for this position in Chamberlain, Ramsey and Campbell. Of the 3 it is Ramsey who has started in this position most frequently past couple of games, and it will not come as a surprise if he is made to play on the wing again, where he frequently swaps his place with Ozil and Cazorla. However, given that Joel Campbell has played out on loan for the Greek side, there is a good chance that Wenger will try to use Campbell’s familiarity with his opponents on and off the pitch. Additionally Aaron Ramsey may need a rest after a string of games. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain could also be one to start, though given the circumstances the chances are he will not be selected ahead of Ramsey.
Striker: Theo Walcott
Olivier Giroud is suspended,… the rest is self- explanatory.
Arsenal and Olympiacos Head to Head
The two sides have met a total of 6 times in this tournament, and it is the home team that has won in every single time. Their most recent encounter was in the 2012-13 season, with Olympiacos registering a 2-1 win at home. This is also the 4th time the two teams have found themselves in the same group during the group stages. One can predict that this will be a game of high intensity, while history suggests that it is Arsenal who are favourites to win the game.