Sokratis Papastathopoulos is excited to be playing against his old friends and teammates on Thursday, wanting to win despite feeling he has nothing to prove.

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND: Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Arsenal FC looks on during the Papa John's Trophy Second Round match between AFC Wimbledon and Arsenal U21 at Plough Lane on December 08, 2020. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)
WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND: Sokratis Papastathopoulos during his time with Arsenal FC on December 08, 2020. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

After leaving Arsenal for Olympiacos in the January transfer window, Sokratis Papastathopoulos is set for a reunion sooner than he might have expected in the Europa League this week.

On Thursday, Arsenal will travel to Greece for the first leg of their Round-of-16 tie against Sokratis’ new side. The defender says he still has a lot of friends at his old club, and they’re all excited to be facing one another.

“I spoke with them and they are excited that we play against each other,” Sokratis said. “I’m close to a lot of them: David, Granit, Aubameyang, Laca, Hector Bellerin, and also Cedric Soares – these are the players I speak a lot with.

“I spoke with them and of course it’s strange [to be facing Arsenal] but I want to win – I want to go to the next round with Olympiacos. Friendship is one thing but qualification is another.”

Some people will surely speculate that Sokratis is driven out of a desire to prove to Mikel Arteta that he was good enough to start at Arsenal. But the player himself claims that’s not what it’s about, he just wants to win matches.

“No, as a player I don’t have to prove to anybody who I am,” Sokratis insisted.

“I already showed everybody in my career what I can do. I worked with some of the best coaches in the world and I played regularly – I don’t have to prove something to Arteta or anyone there.

“When I go to the pitch even if I play with my mum and dad I want to win!”

As for Arteta, he didn’t have anything but positivity in his comments about his former player and upcoming opponent.

“Papa is such a good character and a very popular player here,” Arteta said. “He was liked and loved by everybody and it was a pleasure to work with him.

“He’s such a pro and he knows what we try to do, but there isn’t a magic formula (to win) and I’m sure he will try to do his best. We will do the same.”