The Europa League knockout stages begin as Arsenal travel to Piraeus, Greece to face Olympiakos on Thursday.
This will be a tough test for Arsenal, as Olympiakos arrive in this round of the competition after finishing third in their very difficult Champions League group, which consisted of Bayern Munich, Tottenham and Red Star Belgrade.
They are currently flying high domestically as well and are undefeated at top of the Greek league after 24 games.
The Stadio Karaiskáki will certainly be a difficult place to visit, as Olympiakos earned a 2-2 draw against north London Tottenham in the Champions League and Bayern Munich just about edged out a 3-2 victory in Piraeus.
For Arsenal, life under Mikel Arteta has seen performances drastically improve.
A 4-0 thumping of Newcastle on Sunday increased their unbeaten streak to eight games in all competitions and has raised momentum coming into this tie.
With both teams in good form, this fixture should be an exciting game to watch and you can certainly expect the Gavri to be in full voice.
Pedro Martins vs Mikel Arteta
Olympiakos boss Pedro Martins has a mighty impressive record. Of his 89 games in charge, they have won 61, giving Martins a 69% win rate.
Being a massive club with proud traditions, the managerial position at Olympiakos is one that is held in high regard and their former managers include the likes of Marco Silva, Ernesto Valverde and Zico.
Therefore, Martins will be eager to prove to fans he is as good in Europe as he is domestically.
Arteta will know that this will be a tough fixture with a very intimidating atmosphere. Confident of playing the second leg at the Emirates, Arteta may opt to rest a few big name players for this tie. However, as the race for the top four gets tighter, this competition may be another route to secure Champions League football.
Youssef El-Arabi vs Shkodran Mustafi
El-Arabi has been in scintillating form, scoring 17 goals in 23 games this season. Also, the Morrocan notched five goals in nine games during Olympiakos’ Champions League campaign, including a goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and against Bayern Munich.
We think Mustafi will get the nod at the back, but he must not get complacent. El-Arabi is a proven goalscorer and will be deadly if left unattended. This fixture will be a real test for the centre-back.
Mathieu Valbuena vs Granit Xhaka
Valbuena is showing that he still exudes class when he plays. The 35-year-old was a livewire in the home fixture against Tottenham and was a major nuisance for the Spurs defence.
The Frenchman occupies pockets of space in and around the box and will be integral to Olympiakos’ attacks. This is where the role of Xhaka will be key, as the Swiss star will need to be watchful of Valbuena and not allow him to carry the ball forward.
Rúben Semedo vs Alexandre Lacazette
Lacazette finally ended his goal drought on Sunday and will need to be at his best for this fixture. We feel this tie will be a close and difficult affair, so Arsenal will be counting on their striker to finish his chances.
Olympiakos’ Semedo will make sure his defence are organised and resolute. A strong tackler, Semedo will use his physical presence to knock Lacazette off his stride.