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Preview: Olympiacos vs. Arsenal - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Olympiacos and Arsenal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Arsenal will be praying that lightning does not strike twice against Olympiacos when they kick off their Europa League last-16 tie against the Greek giants on Thursday at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.

The hosts overcame PSV 5-4 on aggregate to advance to the next stage, while Arsenal staged a dramatic comeback to dump Benfica out in the last 32.


Match preview

Olympiacos' Youssef El-Arabi celebrates scoring their second goal as Arsenal players look dejected on February 27, 2020© Reuters

It has been a little over a year since that fateful evening at the Emirates Stadium in last season's Europa League, but Olympiacos forward Youssef El Arabi probably still appears in the nightmares of Gooners up and down the country.

With the tie delicately poised at 1-1 after Arsenal had taken a 1-0 victory home from the first leg, El Arabi struck in the 119th minute before Gunners captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a gilt-edged chance to send the Gunners through, and Olympiacos progressed to the last 16 in the 2019-20 tournament to leave an Emirates crowd shell-shocked.

Mikel Arteta has been forced to endure some tough watches during his short stint in the Emirates dugout, and that night against the Greek powerhouses definitely ranks high on that list, so the Gunners boss will pay Olympiacos and Pedro Martins the respect that they deserve, especially considering their stellar home form of late.

This week's hosts did not make life easy for themselves against PSV, and the Dutch side were minutes away from going through after an Eran Zahavi double put them 2-0 up in the second leg after a 4-2 first-leg defeat, but substitute Ahmed Hassan struck in the 88th minute as they reached the last 16 for the second year running.

Martins's men eased to a 3-0 victory over Lamia in the league at the weekend and they are unbeaten in 10 matches at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium - winning nine of them - and having notched up 28 goals in that run, an Arsenal team who are becoming incredibly difficult to predict must have their wits about them if they are to gain the upper hand this week.

Arsenal's Granit Xhaka contemplates his mistake on March 6, 2021© Reuters

A dominant Arsenal struck inside the opening six minutes at Burnley through a rejuvenated Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but in a tale as old as time, the Gunners failed to put the game to bed and were once again the victims of their own downfall in calamitous fashion at Turf Moor.

Granit Xhaka's attempted pass out wide struck Chris Wood's chest before trickling into the back of the net, and after two dramatic handball episodes involving Nicolas Pepe and Erik Pieters - as well as Dani Ceballos crashing the woodwork with virtually the last kick of the game - Arsenal's momentum took another huge hit as they had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

VAR controversy aside, Arsenal only had themselves to blame for not killing the game off during the first half, although Mikel Arteta made his displeasure known at the final whistle after those at Stockley Park decided against awarding his side a penalty for the first Pepe-Pieters incident, and the Europa League is clearly the Gunners' best bet for another campaign of European football next term.

Arteta's men took to the pitch at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium as recently as February 25 as their three usual suspects - Aubameyang, Kieran Tierney and Bukayo Saka - all produced the goods in a nervy finale against Benfica to send the Gunners into the last 16, but Olympiacos are sure to capitalise on any further mistakes that Arsenal seem almost destined to make.

However, the Gunners can take solace from the fact that they are unbeaten in 10 away matches in the Europa League and have won four of their last five on unfamiliar territory in the tournament, plus with Olympiacos winless in four at home against English teams, Arteta's men could be forgiven for expecting another positive result on Greek soil.

Olympiacos Europa League form:
  • W
  • L

Olympiacos form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W

Arsenal Europa League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W

Arsenal form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • D


Team News

Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe goes down injured against Leicester City in the Premier League on February 28, 2021© Reuters

Olympiacos are in somewhat of a defensive crisis with centre-backs Ruben Semedo and Avraam Papadopoulos out injured, and Ousseynou Ba was taken off after just 18 minutes against Lamia, leaving Martins with a big call to make at the back.

Former Arsenal man Sokratis has also been nursing a shoulder problem but is expected to be fit for this game, so either Yann M'Vila or Mohamed Drager appear to be the most likely options to fill in at the heart of defence.

Mady Camara was suspended for the weekend's victory but will return to the engine room this week, while Hassan's crucial goal in the second leg against PSV is unlikely to earn him a start over Arsenal's public enemy number one El Arabi.

As for Arsenal, Emile Smith Rowe's hip problem is not a significant one, but it was enough to keep him out of the draw at Burnley and he remains a major doubt for this game.

The Gunners are in good shape otherwise, and while he somehow failed to find the back of the net at Turf Moor, Pepe will hope to be handed a start in this fixture over Willian.

Cedric Soares was rested entirely at the weekend so could be given the nod at right-back here, while Gabriel Magalhaes could displace Pablo Mari at the back, although the Spaniard has been solid in recent matches.

Olympiacos possible starting lineup:
Sa; Lala, Sokratis, M'Vila, Reabciuk; Camara, Bouchalakis; Valbuena, Fortounis, Bruma; El Arabi

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Cedric, Luiz, Mari, Tierney; Xhaka, Partey; Saka, Odegaard, Pepe; Aubameyang


SM words green background

We say: Olympiacos 1-1 Arsenal

With most of the Arsenal cohort involved this week also turning out in that humiliating last-32 exit last year, they will be desperate to show Olympiacos that they are made of tougher stuff than during the earliest days of Arteta's reign. The hosts' defensive crisis is certainly a point of concern for Martins, but they have no trouble finding the back of the net at home, and we are expecting a closely-fought first leg to end all square - with Arsenal claiming a vital away goal.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data


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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta pictured on March 6, 2021
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City38275683325186
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd382111673442974
3Liverpool38209968422669
4Chelsea381910958362267
5Leicester CityLeicester382061268501866
6West Ham UnitedWest Ham381981162471565
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs381881268452362
8Arsenal381871355391661
9Leeds UnitedLeeds38185156254859
10Everton38178134748-159
11Aston Villa38167155546955
12Newcastle UnitedNewcastle38129174662-1645
13Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38129173652-1645
14Crystal Palace38128184166-2544
15Southampton38127194768-2143
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton38914154046-641
17Burnley38109193355-2239
RFulham38513202753-2628
RWest Bromwich AlbionWest Brom38511223576-4126
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3872292063-4323

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