Arsenal continue their European campaign with another trip to Greece this evening as they meet Olympiacos in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
The Gunners were in Athens only a fortnight ago, with the second leg of their last-32 clash against Benfica played at the neutral Karaiskakis Stadium because of coronavirus restrictions.
Mikel Arteta’s side came through that tie in dramatic fashion thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s late header and some heroics from Bukayo Saka, and are now back at the same venue – but as the away side.
Olympiacos have been familiar opponents for Arsenal in European competition over the past decade, and they will be looking to gain revenge for last season’s heartbreaking exit against the Greek outfit at the Emirates Stadium.
Arteta’s men know that this competition now represents their only chance of silverware this season – and quite possibly their only pathway back into Europe for the next.
You can follow all tonight’s action LIVE with Standard Sport’s blog below…
It’s a big, big night in Arsenal’s season. Yes, there’s a north London derby to come at the weekend but Mikel Arteta is under no illusions as to which competition takes precedence at the moment.
The Gunners have no chance of qualifying for the Champions League via the Premier League and look unlikely to even make it into this competition through the league. If they want to be in Europe next season, winning this tournament is surely their most likely path.
Mikel Arteta has been speaking about trying to right the wrongs of 12 months ago – when his side were knocked out at the last-32 stage by Olympiacos – in this tie.
Youssef El Arabi’s extra time effort in north London last February saw Olympiacos go through on away goals, but this year’s draw has given Arsenal a chance for revenge.
“It was a really tough one to swallow, the way it happened at the end was really cruel after everything we did in the two games to lose it the way we did it,” Arteta said.
“Emotionally it really drained us because it was a rollercoaster during the game and with what happened, it could have ended in a beautiful way, but it ended in a really harsh way for us. I think emotionally it took some time to get the team and some individuals lifted because it really hurt.”
Sokratis faces former club
Greek defender Sokratis lines up against his old club this evening less than two months after leaving the Emirates.
“As far as I am concerned it is a bit bizarre [to be playing Arsenal], as two months ago I was a team-mate with many of these guys from Arsenal,” he said yesterday.
“This is not something that you get every day in football. However, it is a major challenge for me. It’s a new challenge and my mind is set on winning.”
Olympiacos team news
Olympiacos XI: José Sá; Lala, Sokratis, Ba, Reabciuk; M’Vila, Bouchalakis, Camara; Valbuena, El Arabi, Bruma
Subs: Karargyris, Tzolakis, Fortunis, Ahmed Hassan, Androutsos, Masouras, Drager, Holebas, Sourlis, Randjelovic
Simon Collings for Standard Sport
No major surprises with that Arsenal team. Perhaps Arteta could have gone for Pepe over Willian, but the rest of the side picks itself right now. Good to see Smith Rowe on the bench, he could have an important role to play tonight.
Arsenal team news
Arsenal XI: Leno; Bellerin, Gabriel, Luiz, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Willian, Odegaard, Saka; Aubameyang
Subs: Ryan, Cedric, Chambers, Holding, Pablo Mari, Elneny, Ceballos, Smith Rowe, Pepe, Martinelli, Lacazette, Hein.
A familiar setting for the Gunners…
Head-to-head history and results
- Olympiacos wins: 5
- Draws: 0
- Arsenal wins: 5
- Last meeting: Arsenal 1-2 Olympiacos (27/02/2020)
Standard Sport prediction
Winning the Europa League is Arsenal’s best chance of Champions League qualification, so expect Arteta to go strong – but with the north London derby also coming up, the Gunners will have to balance carefully. A score draw would do nicely with an away goal to take home.
Olympiacos (4-2-3-1): Sa; Lala, Sokratis, M’Vila, Reabciuk; Camara, Bouchalakis; Valbuena, Fortounis, Bruma; El Arabi
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Pepe; Aubameyang