It isn’t new for Arsène Wenger to take his side to Olympiacos on matchday six of the Champions League.
The Arsenal manager has done it on three occasions in the last six years, losing on each visit. However, it’s never really meant anything.
This time around, the Gunners must win by a result better than Olympiacos’ 3-2 victory in London in September to make it out of the Champions League group stage. There can be no resting of players, there can be no lack of motivation, and there can be no calamities.
Wenger has promised one hell of an effort, insisting Arsenal will play with the attacking endeavour required to score at least two goals against tricky opposition in a daunting arena.
“There is one positive thing for us – we know exactly what we have to do,” the manager said after Saturday’s 3-1 win over Sunderland.
“We know that we have to go for it from the start. So let’s do that and hopefully we can get through. We know what is expected and we have studied Olympiacos.
“I believe [Olympiacos] is a different game psychologically, it’s clear, we just have to go for it.”
It looks like we finally managed another weekend without injury concerns, which will be a huge weight off of Wenger’s mind with such a big game in store.
Theo Walcott made his return at the weekend and could even start, though that seems as though it would be a risk after over a month out. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started his first game in over a month at the weekend and Aaron Ramsey came through his first 90 minutes in a month with no problems.
No players are set to return, so Arsenal will be without Alexis Sánchez, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Campbell; Giroud.
Olympiacos fans must be enjoying their season. They have won all 13 of their Greek Super League games in order to build a 13 point gap between themselves and second-placed AEK Athens.
The real star is attacking midfielder Konstantinos Fortounis, who has scored 10 times in the league, but he’s failed to leave much of an impression on the Champions League from his three starts and two substitute appearances. Former West Brom man Brown Ideye has scored five league goals, while Felipe Pardo has been the go-to goalscorer in Europe, netting three Champions League goals, including the opener against Arsenal in September.
With everything to play for, the atmosphere in Piraeus will be electric and intimidating.
Possible XI: Roberto; Elabdellaoui, Botia, Siovas, Masuaku; Milivojevic, Kasami; Pardo, Fortounis, Seba; Ideye.
The final group game has often meant so little to Arsenal, but on Wednesday night it means everything. Progression from the first Champions League group stage has been won 15 times in a row, is it really going to end now we have Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez?
This isn’t the place for a discussion on whether or not Arsenal can win the Champions League, but the club and the team are desperate to prove they can be a force in Europe once again. Avoiding the Europa League would be another bonus.
Rarely, in truth, has a group stage game been this important for Arsenal. On Wednesday night, we take part in a knockout match.