Arsenal travel to Greece to face Olympiakos on Tuesday (7.45pm, live on ITV1) looking for three points that would give them a chance of topping their Champions League group.
The Gunners have already secured a place in the knockout stages of the competition and currently sit second in Group B, one point shy of leaders Schalke going into the final round of matches.
Schalke are away to Montpellier on Tuesday, giving Arsenal hope that they can still qualify as group winners and potentially enjoy an easier first knockout stage tie if they secure victory.
Most teams who reach the knockout stages are of sufficient quality to provide stern opposition, but the statistics show that over the last five years, 62.5% of teams who qualified from the group stage as group winners went on to progress past the first knockout round.
Arsenal come into this match on the back of a morale-sapping 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea on Saturday, a result that leaves them 10th in the Premier League and in need of a good run of results to bring them back in contention to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Arsene Wenger’s men have now won just two of their last eight matches in all competitions. A lack of defensive pace has been cruelly exposed by teams with the requisite commitment to attack, while sloppy defending, especially from set-pieces, has also gifted chances to opponents.
There will also be concern at their recent inability to find the back of the net, as they have scored just once in their last three Premier League outings. It will be interesting to see how Wenger approaches this match. Arsenal’s next match is a difficult Premier League fixture at home to West Brom and the Frenchman may look to rest some first team regulars, especially in his injury-ravaged defence.
One man who is likely to start is French striker Olivier Giroud, who was rested from the start against Swansea. Giroud is yet to replicate the prolific scoring form that saw him fire Montpellier to the French title last season, but has impressed with his overall play and has four assists to date in the Champions League. He is likely to be flanked by any two from Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott, Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arsenal may relish the opportunity to play away from the tense atmosphere that has engulfed their own Emirates Stadium in recent times, although will note that in their five encounters with Olympiakos over the last four seasons the home side has always emerged victorious.
Olympiakos come into the match with very little to play for as they are mathematically assured of finishing third in the group, securing them a place in the Europa League. Their six points came from the double header against bottom side Montpellier, while they have won once and lost once at the Georgios Karaiskaki stadium that will play host to this game.
Leonardo Jardim’s team warmed up for the visit of Arsenal with a 2-1 home win over Platanias that stretched their domestic unbeaten run to 13 matches and saw them pull further clear at the top of the Greek Super League table.
There will be disappointment that the club has failed to progress past the Champions League group stage for a second year in succession, but the newly-appointed Jardim’s position will be safe as long as they continue to perform domestically. The opportunity for a run in the Europa League now also exists.
Olympiakos are unlikely to put out a full strength side on Tuesday as their next league fixture sees them away at fierce rivals Panathinaikos. Jardim will not want to risk injury to his key players ahead of such a big match and there could, therefore, be opportunities for the likes of Anastasios Papazoglou, Giannis Fetfatzidis and Panagiotis Vlachodimos to show their worth.
Olympiakos v Arsenal Betting Tips Verdict
Olympiakos benefit from vociferous home support, but they have nothing to play for and will suffer more from the absence of regular first team players than Arsenal.
The Gunners have hardly been firing on all cylinders recently, but will carry enough of an offensive threat to secure at least a point from this final group stage fixture.
- Back Arsenal +0.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 37/40 with Bet365.
- Both teams have found the back of the net in the last three meetings between these sides, while both have only failed to score once during this year’s group stage. Therefore back both teams to score @ 8/11 with Bet365 or Ladbrokes.