Arsenal v Olympiacos Preview
3rd October, 2012
Arsenal will look to build on their victory in Montpellier on Matchday 1, whilst opponents Olympiacos really need to get something after losing at home to Schalke.
The Greek champions have made a number of personnel changes since last the sides met in last year's group stage. Arsenal will also look to heal wounds obtained in their first defeat of the season at home to Chelsea on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger serves the second of a three match touchline ban for refusing to allow Michel Platini to mount his wife live on the UEFA website. But the Gunners boss is refusing to contenance that it's a handicap, with Steve Bould and Neil Banfield set to man the touchline.
'Ideally I would like to be on the bench, but we speak about everything before the game [in terms of] what can happen. I don't think it is a massive handicap, it would not be an excuse for a bad performance.'
Meanwhile, Portuguese boss Leonardo Jim is bullish about his side's prospects in North London, 'It will be particularly hard - Arsenal at home are very strong - but you can't give up on a game before you even start it. We will try to enjoy the game and give a good account of ourselves. Arsenal are a particularly difficult team, very technical, and we will try to face them by being very compact. That's why we try to be very united - all the players together to decrease the chances of our opponents, just like we played against Schalke.'
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal are without Abou Diaby for three weeks as he picked up a thigh strain in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. Mikel Arteta faces a late fitness test on an ankle knock.
Wojciech Szczesny (ankle) and Lukasz Fabianski (shoulder) are out, with Tomas Rosicky (achilles). Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong are back in full training but none are fit enough for the matchday squad. 17 year old Sergen Gnabry is included however.
Player to watch: Olivier Giroud
The French striker has had a mixed time in front of goal in his time at Arsenal. However, I think he will become more of a fixture in coming weeks.
Opponents have started to lock down Cazorla and Podolski and Giroud's movement and nuisance factor could be crucial in taking the pressure off of them. For instance, both of Podolski's goals in open play this year owed much to Giroud. He will want to start establishing himself as a starter and, importantly, putting chances away when they are presented.
Olympiacos Team News:
Vassilis Torossidis (thigh), Ljubomir Fejsa (groin), Tassos Papazoglou (shoulder) and Rafik Djebbour (thigh) are all unavailable. François Modesto (thigh) will undergo a late fitness test.
Giannis Fetfatzidis and Djamel Abdoun are included in the squad, despite missing Olympiacos' 1-0 win over Atrimotos on Saturday. Coach Leonardo Jim hinted that he may include some younger players in his team, 'There is definitely a possibility of new young talent playing. We have a number of players who have the potential, but I'm not willing to announce the team now. We'll work on the final technical touches, then decide.'
Player to watch: Pablo Contreras
Olympiacos are missing some of their better forward players. Their ability to get a result would rest, you would think, on how well they defend. Pablo Contrearas- at 34- is a very assured centre half with a wealth of experience all over Europe and in his native Chile.
Since the departure of Olof Mellberg, Contreras has been entrusted with being the experienced head that organises the back four. If Olympiacos are to pull off a result, Contreras will need to have had a good game.
Match Facts & Stats
In 7 home games against Greek sides in the Champions League, Arsenal have won 5 and drawn twice.
The sides are meeting in the group stage for the third time in four years. Both sides have won all of their home encounters against one another and lost away.
This is Arsenal's 15th consecutive participation in the competition. Olympiacos have featured 14 times now.
Ariel Ibagaza and David Fuster were teammates of Santi Cazorla at Villarreal.
A winning goal by Marouane Chamakh for Bordeaux knocked Olympiacos out of the Champions League in the round of 16 in March 2010.
Arsene Wenger's Monaco lost a Champions League second round tie to Olympiacos 2-1 on aggregate in 1992-93.
Tonight's match officials are all from Norway with Svein Oddvar Moen taking charge.
I'm going for a narrow 2-1 win for Arsenal tonight. Giroud and Podolski with the goals.
Arsenal travel to West Ham United on Saturday evening. Olympiacos are home to Astos Tripolis.
In terms of Group G, Arsenal are at home to Schalke three weeks tonight, Olympiacos travel to Montpellier.