Arsenal host Olympiakos at the Emirates Stadium this evening for the second leg of their last-32 Europa League tie, with the hosts holding a 1-0 advantage thanks to Alexandre Lacazette’s late strike in the first leg.
The Gunners will be in high-spirits following a run of positive results, more so after three wins on-the-bounce from the last three to now have extended our unbeaten run to 10-matches across all competitions since the turn of the year.
Mikel Arteta can certainly be pleased with how the players have responded to him to have a defined playing style. But he will also be well aware that the hard work only starts now as we head towards the business end of this campaign.
With the Europa still our best route to secure qualification for next season’s Champions League we may go with a strong lineup, especially with a relatively favourable FA Cup tie at League One side Portsmouth on Monday night, to not risk leaving things to chance against the Greek Super League’s finest.
Pedro Martins has already did a lot of tough talking to put the home side on notice and is very confident about his teams chances to overturn the 1-0 deficit: “This is Olympiakos and you will see that in London. I believe in this team […]. I believe we can win at Arsenal.”
Following their loss to Arsenal last Thursday, their only defeat from their last 19 matches in all competitions, they beat PAOK in a top-of-the-table league match over the weekend, to make it four wins from their last five matches in all competitions, and it’s on the back of that they head into London.
However, the visitors got a rep for being poor travellers outside Greece; having lost 10 of their last 11 abroad in European competition, excluding qualifiers. So they will have to do something special if they want to turn this tie around. That being said; the last time they visited the Emirates was on the 29 September 2015 and they ran out 3-2 winners. A similar result would see them advance to the last-16 at our expense.
Arsenal’s win against Everton came at a cost with Sead Kolašinac forced off the field with a shoulder injury that could keep him out for quite some time. Kieran Tierney is back in training though, but only expected to make his return on Monday night at Fratton Park.
Lacazette stayed on the bench on Sunday against the Toffees, so he should be fresh to lead the attack.
Lucas Torreira and Mesut Özil, who didn’t make the flight to Greece, are both available for selection, as is Sokratis who picked up a knock late in that match.
The Gunners will be looking to keep the current momentum going in front of the Emirates faithful and will certainly feel upbeat after last week’s result. Although a slim lead, it will allow them some comfort to dictate the pace of the game, sit a bit deeper than usual to allow the Greeks coming at them, which in turn will give them chances on the break. Certainly a game Granit Xhaka can thrive in with those stunning lobs over the top. Ergo I predict a hard-fought close win for the home side. COYG!