UEFA Champions League Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Olympiacos
Arsenal find themselves in a glorious position as they enter their final match of the UEFA Champions League Group F. The Gunners sit atop the group with 11 points, qualification to the round of 16 secured and the fact that they cannot be dislodged from first place, a feat that no other English Premier League can currently boast.
Arsene Wenger's men boast 11 points from their five matches with French giants Olympique de Marseille on seven points in second place, whilst Greek giants Olympiacos have six and German Champions Borussia Dortmund have four.
Arsenal travel to the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium to encounter Olympiacos, and with the North London giants facing a lengthy December schedule and win qualification sealed, Arsene Wenger is set to rest several key players for the clash.
The Frenchman will of course desire a victory, but due to a large, quality squad, Wenger has the fringe players, youngsters and reserves at his disposal to put forward a hugely competitive team. But just who will receive a rest and who will receive an opportunity?
Bleacher Report predicts the Arsenal starting XI for their match against Olympiacos.
First choice shot stopper Wojciech Szczesny is set to receive a break, which ensures Poland international Lukasz Fabianski will receive a rare opportunity to prove his worth. Fabianski, who was the Arsenal first choice this time last year before a season-ending shoulder injury—which Szczesny took full advantage of—has become frustrated with lack of opportunities.
Italian youngster Vito Mannone is likely to receive the substitute keeper role, whilst veteran Manuel Almunia continues to wait until January so the Spaniard can finally depart.
Centre half trio Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are all expected to enjoy a break after a clean sheet achieved against Wigan Athletic. This ensures imposing Swiss Johan Djourou and French veteran Sebastien Squillaci will start in the centre defence.
Teenage duo Nicohlas Yennaris and Igansi Miquel are expected to make up the right and left full back positions, with Brazilian international Andre Santos also expected to be rested. Nineteen-year-old Daniel Boateng is the likliest candidate for a substitute's role.
First choice right back Bacary Sagna is still over a month away from returning after a broken ankle sustained in October, whilst deputy Carl Jenkinson is expected to return by the end of the month. England international Kieran Gibbs is still nursing a hernia.
French youngster Francis Coquelin, who was immense in the Carling Cup defeat to Manchester City last week, is expected to get another opportunity to shine in the Arsenal midfield alongside Ghanaian teenager Emmanuel Frimpong, who has also been impressive.
This ensures midfield leader Alexandre Song receives a well earned rest, whilst Wales captain Aaron Ramsey is also unlikely to feature. Israeli captain Yossi Benayoun is expected to also start and captain the side, replacing Mikel Arteta.
Imposing Frenchman Abou Diaby has suffered a thigh strain and will not feature. Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky has been absent with a thigh complaint, but is expected to make the bench to face Olympiacos. England international Jack Wilshere is still absent due to ankle surgery.
Former reserve captain Craig Eastmond is set to provide versatility from the bench, whilst Dutch teenager Ozyakup Oguzhan is a substitutes contender.
Inspirational captain Robin van Persie, who now has 39 goals in 43 appearances for 2011, is destined to receive a rest before a hectic Christmas period. This ensures out of form Moroccan Marouane Chamakh receives another opportunity to prove his worth; failure here could signify the end of his short career at Arsenal.
England international Theo Walcott is set to step down on the right wing to enable teenage sensation Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to receive a rare chance. The 18-year-old made his UEFA Champions League debut against Olympiacos, scoring a superb goal.
Who Will Conquer?
Ivorian forward Gervinho is expected to return to the bench, whilst Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin will start on the left wing. South Korean captain Park Chu-Young is set to feature off the bench and could even start ahead of Chamkh. Japanese teenager Ryo Miyaichi is expected to return from a ankle injury at the end of the month.
With seven places on Wenger's bench, Vito Mannone is expected to be the emergency keeper and Daniel Boaten the emergency defender. Craig Eastmond, Tomas Rosicky and Oguzhan Ozyakup are set to be the substitute midfielders. Chu Young-Park and Gervinho are the likely impact attackers.
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