It’s a straight forward shoot-out for the second automatic qualification spot in Group F as Arsenal travel to Athens to face Olympiakos.
THE GREEKS WILL NOT BEAR ANY GIFTS TO THE GUNNERS
For Olympiakos it’s simple; avoid defeat against Arsenal on Wednesday night and they will progress into the last 16 of the Champions League. A defeat could also see them still qualify, but more of that a little later. The Greek giants have really been the surprise package in this group and September’s 3-2 victory in London against the Premier League side was a huge shock and has put them on the brink of a place in February’s knock-out phase. Domestically, they are in wonderful form and boast the only 100% record in the Greek top-flight. Last weekend’s 4-3 win against Panthrakikos set a new national record for consecutive wins from the beginning of a season. The team is also scoring lots of goals, bagging 11 in their last 3 outings with nine different players getting on the scoresheet. Despite defeats both home and away to Bayern Munich, Marco Silva’s side can boast a 100% record against the rest of Group F and one more positive outcome will see his team over the line.
ARSENAL MUST GO FOR GOALS
The Premier League side go into this do or die fixture needing to win. Not only do they need to do this, but they need to do it by at least two clear goals or by the same result that the Greeks won at the Emirates, 3-2 (the best online football betting sites quote this scoreline at *23.00). It’s been a messy road for Arsene Wenger’s side in Europe this season, an opening day defeat against Dinamo Zagreb set the tone and the surprise loss in the reverse fixture against Wednesday’s hosts put qualification to the last 16 in serious doubt. Beating Bayern Munich at the Emirates gave them renewed hope however, as they prepare to face a hostile welcome at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis on Wednesday evening; a place where Wenger has lost on his previous three visits. A 3-1 win at the weekend against Sunderland got Arsenal in the mood, now comes an altogether stiffer test in the city of Pireás.
The hosts will be without the experienced duo of Alejandro Dominguez and Giannis Maniatis, who both remain sidelined through injury. More worrying for Silva is the fitness doubt surrounding centre-half Alberto Botia leaving the coach with a big decision to make in the hours leading up to kick-off.
Arsenal are ravaged by injuries with Chilean playmaker Alexis Sanchez and midfielder Santi Cazorla the latest casualties. They join Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky in the treatment room. Costa Rican frontman Joel Campbell (*3.60 on the betting exchanges to score in 90 minutes) looks set to start just behind the lone striker Olivier Giroud
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Olympiakos (4-2-3-1) Roberto; Elabdellaoui, Botia, Siovas, Masuaku; Milivojevic, Kasami; Pardo, Fortounis, Seba; Ideye
Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Flamini; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Campbell; Giroud
HEAD TO HEAD
There has yet to be a drawn game in the seven previous meetings between these two. The Greek’s currently have the edge with four wins to Arsenal’s three. The Gunners have lost on their last three visits to Athens, most recently in December 2012 when goals from Maniatis and Mitroglou sealed a 2-1 win for Olympiakos. The last English side to defeat Wednesday’s hosts on their own patch was Newcastle United back in 2005.
Olympiakos 3.50 Draw 3.80 Arsenal 2.10
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)