Olympiakos v Arsenal Preview
Stadio Georgios Karaisaki, Piraeus
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Olympiakos are already locked into the Europa League spot in Group B while Arsenal, already through to the last 16, require a win and a Schalke slip-up against Montpellier in order to win the bracket.
BREAKDOWN: With the pressure of qualifying already behind them and the pressure of the Premier League a few days ahead, Arsenal’s journey to Greece really couldn’t come at a better time.
Goals from Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski in the second half of their Matchday Five encounter at home to Montpellier put Arsenal into the Champions League Round of 16 with a game to spare, so despite their domestic wobbles the Gunners can feel reasonably well about their European exploits.
The thing is, those domestic wobbles are becoming more frequent, and with only a single win to show from their last seven Premier League matches Arsenal currently find themselves a disappointing 10th in the standings.
“This game comes at a good time,” remarked Gunners boss Arsene Wenger during his pre-match press conference. “We have less pressure, as we are already through to the last 16 and we want to finish well and top of our group. It also gives us the opportunity to see players who have had less time on the pitch.”
Those players are likely to include right-back Carl Jenkinson, defender Johan Djourou, midfielders Francis Coquelin and Tomas Rosicky and attacker Andrei Arshavin. Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker will likely be rested, as will Mikel Arteta and Lukas Podolski. Andre Santos could also slot in at left-back.
Olympiakos, meanwhile, are looking forward to the prospect of Europa League football and are also a whopping 10 points clear of second-place PAOK atop the Greek Super League standings. They’re coming off a 2-0 win at home to Platanias, but manager Leonardo Jarim has vowed to take Tuesday’s match seriously.
“Our first goal is to win and get in the pool of strong teams in the Europa League,” he said. “There mere fact that we are playing a Champions League match is incentive enough.”
Algerian tandem Rafik Djebbour and Djamel Abdoun have been the catalysts of Olympiakos’ success so far this season. Djebbour leads all strikers in Greece with nine goals to date while Abdoun, a winger who represented France at underage levels but is now a senior Algerian international, has contributed six assists.
ESSENTIALS: Left-back Jose Holebas, who happens to be a vital attacking player for Olympiakos, is suspended while defender Avraam Papadopoulos and midfielder Charalambos Lykogiannis are both injured.
Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny has a thigh strain while right-back Bacary Sagana has recovered from a foot injury but is unlikely to feature.
KEY BATTLE: Abdoun will operate on the left wing, which means he’ll be going head-to-head with Arsenal’s number-two right-back: Jenkinson.
FORMATIONS: Jardim will deploy a 4-4-2 formation with Djebbour and Kostas Mitroglou up top. Wenger will send out a 4-2-3-1 fronted by Olivier Giroud and supported by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Arshavin.
BETLINE: Olympiakos 13/10; Draw 12/5; Arsenal 21/10. Olympiakos defeated Arsenal 3-1 on this ground last December.