Arsenal and Olympiacos have become familiar foes of late. In fact they have faced each other six times in the group stages of the world’s most prestigious club competition.
It will come as great comfort to followers of Arsene Wenger’s men that it has been the home outfit who have prevailed on every occasion the two have crossed swords.
Victory over Leicester at the weekend was much-needed and, perhaps more importantly, pretty emphatic. However, they must build on that victory and a European success looks equally as crucial after their shambolic start in Croatia.
Olympiacos arrive at the Emirates after being swept aside by Bayern Munich and they could be prime for the picking here. Nevertheless, it would be very Arsenal to slip-up here wouldn’t it?
Here we take a look at what could make the difference when the two teams clash this evening in the capital.
Ozil/Ramsey/Sanchez v Cambiasso
The former Leicester City man returns to England with his cigar firmly still in his mouth at the base of the midfield. Cambiasso was an inspiration for the Foxes last season and, quite frankly, without him they wouldn’t be in the top-flight.
He broke hearts when he moved to Greece and he will be looking to show the Premier League what they are missing. However, this could be a difficult night for the Argentinian. He will be asked to do a lot of defending and with the Gunners’ front four high on confidence after ripping Leicester apart, they may target Cambiasso and his ageing limbs as they look to get in between the lines.
Arsenal v Bottling it
This game should really be a formality for Arsenal, especially after their win at the weekend, but all Gunners fans will have that niggling doubt in the back of their minds.
Last season they threw away the game against Anderlecht after being three goals to the good, made hard work of Besiktas on their own patch and were beaten 3-1 by an extremely average Monaco team in the knock-out stages.
They need early goals to settle any potential nerves. If it’s still 0-0 at half-time, expect Piers Morgan to be furiously tweeting and Wenger to be playing with the zip on his coat.
Theo Walcott v Manuelda Costa andDimitrisSiovas
It seems that every season, when Arsenal struggle up top, there is a massive clamour for Theo Walcott to be given his chance as a number nine. Usually, this happens, he scores a few and then fails to deliver on the big stage before being moved back to the wing or dropped to the bench.
Well, the former Southampton man is definitely in a rich vein of form, having scored five in his last six for club and country, so maybe this is the week he proves himself.
A goal here would set him up nicely for the clash with Man United at the weekend and could see him installed as his manager’s go-to man for the big occasion.
Kostas Fortounis v Francis Coquelin
Arsenal’s defensive shield returns to the side after injury for this one and he will have Greek football’s leading goalscorer to keep him occupied.
Fortounis has found the net five times already this season for Olympiacos and he is showing himself to be one of Europe’s emerging talents. He has had more attempts on goal than any other player in the Super League, with only one player delivering more crosses into the box. There has been talk of a Premier League switch, and this could be the perfect stage for the former Kasierslauten man to sell his wares.
His French opponent, should Fortounis line-up centrally, may be lacking a touch of sharpness after a spell on the sidelines and if the creative midfielder is allowed space, he will not hesitate to add to his tally this term.
Wenger v Rotation
Arsenal have a pretty big game at the weekend against Manchester United and the French manager could be tempted to rest players. To do so would leave him open to serious scrutiny.
Deep down Wenger will know that his team should be able to do the job, no matter who he puts on the pitch, but he will also be wary of making too many changes and stumbling again in Europe.
It should be a case of one or two changes but all the big guns still making the XI. If names such as Joel Campbell and Callum Chambers appear on the team sheet then it could be a nervy affair.