Arsenal host Olympiakos at the Emirates Stadium for the second leg in the Europa League’s round of 32 this evening.
Alexandre Lacazette’s 81st-minute goal was enough for the Gunners as they secured a 1-0 win at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskaki last week.
This result was just what Mikel Arteta wanted as an away tie in Piraeus was always going to be a difficult one. You only have to look at the atmosphere the Gavri provided last Thursday to illustrate how difficult it is playing against the 12th man.
Arsenal will be much more comfortable at the Emirates, however, as the Gunners have only lost twice at home in 17 Europa League games.
Still, Arsenal shouldn’t underestimate Olympiakos. Before last week, the Greek giants had last tasted defeat in November 2019, so losing isn’t a regular occurrence.
Olympiakos recovered brilliantly after their loss to Arsenal, beating their title rivals PAOK Thessaloniki 1-0 to go five points clear at the top of the Greek Super League.
With that huge win under their belts, Olympiakos will be hungry for revenge when these two sides meet again.
Here are our ‘Key Battles’ to keep a close eye on…
Mikel Arteta vs Pedro Martins
The 1-0 loss to Arsenal was only Pedro Martins’ 12th loss as Olympiakos boss after 91 games. Martins will need to set up his side to be more attacking and free-flowing in this fixture as in Piraeus, Olympiakos looked nervous and scared to make a mistake. The 1-0 victory against PAOK should boost Olympiakos’ confidence as the result has all but secured the Greek title.
Arteta can expect Olympiakos to come at Arsenal with no fear as the Greek side need to score goals. The performance in Piraeus was very mature and patient, so Arteta will look to instil a similar set up for this tie.
Bernd Leno vs Youssef El-Arabi
Despite not finding the back of the net in Piraeus, El-Arabi’s fantastic goal scoring record justifies how dangerous he can be in front of goal. As Olympiakos need to score in this tie, the importance El-Arabi will play in this fixture cannot be understated.
Leno will look to replicate his solid performance in Greece and thwart the Olympiakos attack. If Leno can get himself a clean sheet, this would be enough for Arsenal to qualify to the next round.
Lucas Torreira vs Mady Camara
Camara was arguably Olympiakos’ best player in the reverse fixture. The 22-year-old Guinean worked hard to get the ball back for his side and was always looking up to move his side forward. Therefore, as Olympiakos have to attack, his role will be crucial.
This also means that Torreira will need to stop Camara from going forward and limit his time on the ball. Torreira is known for his dogged ability to win the ball back, so this will work perfectly in this fixture as Olympiakos will constantly look to get the ball forward.
Gabriel Martinelli vs Ousseynou Ba
With Olympiakos needing goals, there will be an emphasis on attack. Therefore, this provides Martinelli with a brilliant opportunity to get on the score sheet against a side that may neglect their defensive duties. Using his electric pace, Martinelli is very effective playing on the counter and has the potential to really hurt Olympiakos. The absence of suspended Ruben Semedo will mean that Ba will have to lead the defensive line and make sure Olympiakos don’t concede as this will make their task even harder.