Champions League: Can Arsenal Gun Down the Greek Champions Olympiacos?

Mary O'SheaSenior Writer ISeptember 28, 2009

LIEGE, BELGIUM - SEPTEMBER 16:  Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal celebrates his goal with William Gallas during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Standard Liege and Arsenal at the Sclessin Stadium on September 16, 2009 in Liege, Belgium.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Tuesday and Wednesday night see the second lot of matches in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.

On Tuesday night at 19:45 GMT, Group H sees Arsenal entertain Olympiacos at the Arsenal Stadium (not known as the Emirates for European games due to sponsorship issues).

Both sides started the group with a win.

Arsenal came from two goals down to eke out a 2-3 victory away to Standard Liege while Olympiacos were victorious over AZ Alkmaar by the slenderest of margins.

Since then, Arsene Wenger's men have collected six points in the English Premier League, defeating Wigan at the Emirates by four goals to nil while digging out a win at the weekend in a hard-fought game against Fulham.

In these games, a usually porous Arsenal defence managed to keep two clean sheets.

The first came as a result of a timid Wigan attack (who made up for this against Chelsea), while the second was very much thanks to young Italian goalkeeper Vito Mannone.

Arsenal's third choice keeper rightly earned rave reviews for his performance at the weekend (only his fourth senior appearance for the Gunners) where he made at least three key saves to earn his team maximum points.

With first choice Manuel Almunia still suffering the effects of a chest infection and second choice 'keeper Lukasz Fabianski recovering from a knee injury, Mannone will keep his place in goal for the tie against the Greek side.

Also missing for the Gunners will be long-term absentees Samir Nasri and Johann Djourou.

They have been joined in the treatment room by Brazilian Denilson, who has suffered a fracture to his back. He will be out for at least two months, according to Gunners' boss Arsene Wenger.

Also sidelined for this game is Danish International Nicklas Bendtner, who suffered minor bruising in a car accident on Sunday.

Bendtner is expected to be back for the home game against Blackburn on Sunday, where he should be joined by Theo Walcott, who will miss out on tomorrow night's game due to a lack of match fitness.

However, good news for the Gunners comes in the form of Andrey Arshavin and Carlos Vela who are available for selection.

Arshavin made his return from injury against Fulham, while Vela came on as substitute against West Brom in the Carling Cup to turn the tie in Arsenal's favour.

On paper, Arsenal face tough opposition on Tuesday as the Greek Champions pay a visit.

As with most Greek teams, Olympiacos save their best form for home games and tend to suffer on away trips.

Sitting second in the Greek Super League, Olympiacos have had a change of manager in recent weeks with Temuri Ketsbaia been replaced by Brazilian Legend Zico.

The Reds enter the game off the back of two victories.

First, they beat AEK Athens 2-1 with Vassillis Torosidis striking twice. 

This was followed up by a 1-0 win at home over Panionios with the goal coming from Jaouad Zairi.

To date the Greeks have an almost watertight defence, leaking only two goals in ten competitive fixtures to date.

Arsenal's choice of firepower should put this defence to the test with Wenger having the options of Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky, Andrey Arshavin, Robin Van Persie, Carlos Vela, Eduardo Da Silva while Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas have been weighing in with goals from set pieces.

Arsenal are one again expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation.


Expected Starting XI:


    Sagna                  Gallas                    Vermaelen              Clichy

                               Song                      Diaby


          Van Persie                  Eduardo                    Arshavin 

Team (from): Mannone, Clichy, Gallas, Vermaelen, Sagna, Song, Diaby, Fabregas, Arshavin, Eduardo, van Persie, Szczesny, Rosicky, Eboue, Silvestre, Ramsey, Gibbs, Wilshere, Vela, Watt.

Verdict: Arsenal to secure another three points with a bit to spare.