Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Olympiacos: The Inside Track

By Rob Kelly


“We are with our backs to the wall a bit after our defeat at Zagreb. Our home games will be absolutely vital, so we have a big task and we need to do that well.” - Arsene Wenger


After successive away victories, Arsenal return home this evening with morale boosted and optimism rife once more.

The nature of their performances at Tottenham and Leicester City may have been somewhat different, but they both spoke of a side rapidly growing in confidence.

Granted, the Champions League is a different animal to domestic football but the Gunners should head into their second Group F fixture with no little self-belief and motivation.

Arsene Wenger admits that his side were “not convincing anywhere” in their opening fixture at Dinamo Zagreb, and their defeat in Croatia only hastens the need for a restorative victory tonight.

They will not find it easy against an Olympiacos side that have won all five of their domestic matches this term, but the Greek champions have never claimed a point from a game in England and Arsenal will be heavy favourites.

Team news:

Arsenal: Coquelin (knee - doubt), Arteta (muscular), Flamini (hamstring), Wilshere (ankle), Rosicky (knee), Welbeck (knee)

Olympiacos: Milivojevic (suspended), Da Costa (knee)

Yet Wenger believes the Champions League tends to punish any loss of focus and has called on the Gunners to get their European campaign back on track.

“Olympiacos are the dominant team in their championship, which they have recently always been,” he told Arsenal Player. “We know their club well because we have played many times against them.

“I would say that even if this year they lost 3-0 against Bayern Munich [in the opening game], it wasn’t a 3-0 game. Bayern scored two late goals, so it was very tight.

“We have to be on our toes. We are with our backs to the wall a bit after our defeat at Zagreb. Defensively we were not convincing, offensively we were not convincing. On top of that, we were a bit unlucky as well because we played with 10 men. What is positive is that we have room for improvement there.

“We were not convincing anywhere, so I hope for us to improve everywhere. Our home games will be absolutely vital, so we have a big task and we need to do that well.”


Having taken 31 shots on goal without reward prior to kick-off at Leicester, Alexis suddenly exploded into life in spectacular fashion on Saturday.

His hat-trick - one a poacher’s finish, the second a towering header and the third a long-range snap-shot - highlighted the variety of the Chilean’s game and the danger he poses to opposing defences.



Alexis celebrates against Leicester

Alexis celebrates against Leicester



Now, having ended his mini goal drought, Wenger is confident that Alexis is primed for more - starting against Olympiacos.

“He is back to his level,” the manager said. “I could see in training a different player in the last week or two and he has shown that [at Leicester]. I believe going forward he always looked dangerous.

“I think [he is world class] - I have plenty of players that are world class. You have to understand the definition of that but overall he is a striker who is mobile and works hard for the team. When the team plays well he can score goals.”


One of the driving forces of Leicester City’s incredible escape from relegation last season was Esteban Cambiasso - and it was a considerable blow for the Foxes when he left for Olympiacos in the summer.

Opta Facts

Arsenal and Olympiacos have been paired in the same Champions League group for the fourth time in the last seven seasons

All six of their previous encounters in the Champions League have ended in a home win

Olympiacos have lost all 12 of their away games against English teams in European competition, scoring only three goals and conceding 37 in the process

The former Argentina international may not have the same mobility of his peak years, but his passing range, vast experience and big-game mentality make him a formidable opponent.

Cambiasso is likely to line up at the base of the Olympiacos midfield on Tuesday night, and Aaron Ramsey is expecting a major battle with his illustrious opposite number.

“He’s a legend in the game who has been there, done it and still has a lot to offer now,” the Arsenal midfielder said.

“We saw last season what he did for Leicester, and to do that at his age was remarkable. He still has a lot to offer and it will be good to come up against him.”



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