29th September 2015: Champions League Preview – Three points a must

Welcome back. So the Champions League returns this evening as we host Olympiakos and after losing at Dinamo Zagreb on matchday one, picking up all three points against the Greek champions is almost a must if we want to reach the knockout stages.

As such, I’m expecting Arsene Wenger to field as strong a line-up as possible which, with a bit of luck, will include Francis Coquelin who has been a doubt with a knee injury. There’s also been some rumours flying around that Petr Cech has some form of minor injury and may not be risked with David Ospina replacing him between the sticks and if that is the case, I’d rather we didn’t take any risks despite the importance of a win tonight. We’ll see.

Elsewhere in the team, the boss spoke about checking on the recovery of those who had played both against Tottenham in the league cup a week ago and Saturday’s win at Leicester and the only players who started both games are Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini. The latter has already been ruled out of tonight’s game through injury so perhaps we’ll see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replace Ramsey on the right of the attack.

But with Mikel Arteta also sidelined, if Coquelin doesn’t quite make it, Ramsey would likely be needed to play in central midfield even if he is in desperate need of a rest, because with Jack Wilshere recovering from a fractured leg, we really are down to the bare bones in that area of the pitch at the moment.

Olivier Giroud serves a one-match ban for the red card he received in Croatia and Gabriel could potentially return in defence after serving his own suspension domestically. All that considered, my guess is we’ll line-up as follows:

Ospina;

Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal;

Coquelin, Cazorla;

Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez;

Walcott

That team looks more than capable of getting the win, although we’ll need to be wary of a side who Arsene suggested will have prepared well for this game because they are dominating their own league with ease, having won five out five so far this term.

Indeed, their current manager, the Portuguese, former Estoril right-back Marco Silva, was in bullish mood when he spoke at his press conference yesterday, explaining that whilst Arsenal and Bayern Munich are favourites to emerge from the group, his side have prepared well, are ambitious and ‘have to go for it’. He said:

We know it will be a difficult game, how big a team Arsenal are and we respect them, but we believe in our own strengths and are ready for a strong game. We are going to come here and show our best self, to show what we can do. We have analysed the jobs which Arsenal do well and will try not to make mistakes, bring to them match what we have done in training. If you asked people who would be the first two in the group, people would say it is Bayern and Arsenal, but football is not like this – there are no rules to say the favourites must win all of the games. We did not manage to win against Bayern, and yes the Dinamo win over Arsenal has made it more difficult for us, but we have our own ambitions and there are no limits to them. You have to go for it and we hope that we can change the situation in the group.

In terms of the history between the clubs, we’ve faced Olympiakos six times previously – all in the Champions League group stages – winning our three home games but losing the three at their place. So the omens for tonight at Emirates stadium at least, are good.

The first meeting in north London came in September 2009, when we beat them 2-0 thanks to goals from Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin. The next was two years later and goals by Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andre Santos secured us a 2-1 win, and the last match between the sides in London came in 2012, ending 3-1 in our favour thanks to strikes by Gervinho, Lukas Podolski and Ramsey.

Not long left until the teams are announced now  so I’ll leave it there and see you tomorrow.

COME ON ARSENAL!

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