Karaiskakis Stadium, Athens
. 12th December, 2015
On Wednesday against Olympiakos, Arsene Wenger would not want to suffer the same fate as Louis van Gaal, of being eliminated from the Champions League in the group stage itself. It looks a tad bit difficult for the Gunners to qualify right now, and with their recent poor form, things can get even more complicated as the match progresses.
Olympiakos on the other hand, have the unlikely upper hand in the tie, and since they are playing at home, it would serve as an added advantage against a stuttering Arsenal FC, for them to make it to the Knockout stages of Europe’s premier football competition.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Olympiakos Piraeus FC
The Legends are on hot form at the moment, as another young and tactically sound manager from Portugal — Marco Silva — seems to be rising, this time from the calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Under the 38-year-old, Olympiakos have won 13 of their last 15 matches in the Champions League.
Their only two defeats in this stretch has come against FC Bayern Munich, which is a rather excusable affair given the Bavarian side’s dangerous form this season. Olympiakos just need a draw against Arsenal FC, to make it through to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Even a 0-1 or a 1-2 loss could do the trick for them.
Olympiakos like to sit back in defence, and hit their opponents on the counter, a tactic that would suit them very well against Arsenal FC, who like to keep the ball at their feet quite well. They mostly rely on fast counter attacks, using short, quick passes to catch their opponents off guard. South American wingers Seba and Felipe Pardo would be instrumental to the Greek side, in executing this style of play, with Konstantinos Fortounis pulling the strings from the no. 10 role.
There is some good news for the Red and Whites, as Esteban Cambiasso is set to return to action against Arsenal FC, and this might give manager Silva some headache over team selection in the middle of the park. Cambiasso would provide some extra steel to the midfield and it would probably be either Pajtim Kasami or Luka Milivojevic, who would partner the Argentinian in the pivoting role.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Roberto; Masuaku, Siovas, Botia, Elabdellaoui; Milivojevic, Cambiasso; Seba, Fortounis, Pardo; Ideye.
The Gunners had managed to win only one match in November — a 3-0 home win against Dinamo Zagreb. Apart from that, they have had a horrendous month, littered with injuries and losses.
While some of the walking wounded have returned to action, namely Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, they still have around one-thirds of their squad in the infirmary. The biggest absentees of course are midfielder Santi Cazorla and forward Alexis Sanchez.
Wenger was heavily criticised for over-playing Sanchez, which is eventually believed to have lead to the Chile international’s hamstring injury. Thus, it is believed that the Frenchman would give main playmaker Mesut Oezil some rest in the Olympiakos match. Perhaps the German international would start come off the bench in the second half, if Wenger needs him to.
This move does not make much sense, given that the Gunners need a two-goal victory in a rather hostile Karaiskakis Stadium on Wednesday night. However, if Wenger does decide to bench Oezil, he would have to play Oxlade-Chamberlain into the no. 10 role behind stirker Oluvier Giroud, and Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell out wide.
Wenger is also reportedly readying Calum Chambers to play the holding midfield role and we could see the former Southampton fullback start beside Ramsey in the role that is generally given to the now injured Francis Coquelin.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerin; Ramsey, Chambers; Campbell, Oxlade Chamberlain, Walcott; Giroud.
- Olympiakos have lost only two of their last 15 matches in all competitions, winning the rest of the 13 games.
- Arsenal FC have only won three of their last eight matches in all competitions.
- Olympiakos have failed to score in just one of their last eight Champions League gmaes.
- Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud are the only two Arsenal FC players, who have been able to score goals away from home, in this season’s Champions League campaign.
- Olympiakos have won their last three home matches against the Gunners.
Player to watch out for
Alberto Botia (Olympiakos Piraeus)
The Spanish centreback has been instrumental this season, and has been a pillar at the heart of Silva’s defence. The La Masia academy graduate has played inn the big leagues with Sevilla FC, and knows a thing or two about big game atmosphere. With Olympiakos needing just a draw from the match, Botia would be cricial to the Red and Whites to take them through to the Round of 16. The 26-year-old has shown that he can pop up with a goal or two, and has proven that in the Greek Super League, with four goals from five appearances, which is incredible even cor a striker, let alone for a centreback.
Olympiakos Piraeus FC 1-2 Arsenal FC
Arsenal FC do have enough to get the victory against Olympiakos, but a two-goal margin seems out of the cards, with the Greek club in supreme form right now. This result would not be enough to take the Gunners through to the Round of 16, and it means that they would have to join Manchester United in the less fancied Europa League.