Arsenal will hope to ease into the quarter-finals of the Europa League when they welcome Olympiacos to the Emirates Stadium for the second leg of their last-16 battle.
Goals from Martin Odegaard, Gabriel and Mohamed Elneny saw the hosts ease to a 3-1 win in the first leg, but Olympiacos know a thing or two about causing shocks at the Emirates.
Gunners fans would have paid a pretty penny for Dani Ceballos’s thoughts in the first leg, as the Real Madrid loanee – who was also at fault against Benfica in the last 32 – cheaply gave the ball away and allowed Arsenal’s public enemy number one Youssef El Arabi to level the scores after Odegaard’s stunning opener.
Just mere days after another catastrophic attempt at playing out from the back against Burnley, Gooners may have been expecting their side to be the masters of their own downfall once more, but thanks to a powerful header from Gabriel and yet another long-range thunderbolt from Elneny, Ceballos’s mistake did not matter too much in the grand scheme of things.
Mikel Arteta’s trophy cabinet already boasts an FA Cup and Community Shield, and the former midfield maestro would dearly love to claim European silverware in his first full season in charge, especially with a top-four pursuit seemingly dead in the water despite a recent upturn in fortunes.
Indeed, Arsenal followed up their first-leg triumph with a dominant showing against Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby, as Odegaard once again stole the show while Alexandre Lacazette continued his terrific record against Spurs from the spot after Erik Lamela’s outrageous Rabona, and the Gunners have now won four out of their last five in all competitions.
Arteta will no doubt take the second leg seriously, especially seeing as his side have now gone 10 games without a clean sheet since January’s goalless stalemate with Manchester United, but this game also offers the Spaniard the chance to utilise his resources on the bench before the weekend’s London derby with a Champions League-chasing West Ham United side.
Olympiacos, and El Arabi in particular, will have fond memories of their trip to the Emirates in the 2019-20 Europa League, but nostalgia counts for nothing as the Greek giants attempt to overturn a 3-1 deficit in the English capital.
Pedro Martins’s men had their chances in the first leg, although they were mainly gifted to them by the Gunners’ disastrous attempts at knocking it around in their defensive third, and chalking up at least three goals at the Emirates – albeit an empty one – is no mean feat for even the best sides in Europe.
Nevertheless, Olympiacos have found the back of the net in their last 24 matches across all competitions since losing 2-0 to Porto in the Champions League group stage back in December, and despite a raft of changes with the second leg in mind, Martins’s men eased past Larissa 3-1 in their final match of the regular Super League season.
Unsurprisingly, Olympiacos topped the table by a whopping 16 points over Aris Thessaloniki, and while their attention will soon turn to the playoff round, the Greek giants are simply hoping to avoid yet another last-16 exit in the Europa League, having never advanced past this stage of the tournament.
While Arsenal’s clean sheet record is hardly spectacular, Olympiacos have had their defence breached on their last six outings on unfamiliar territory and have won just two of their last nine Europa League knockout games away from home, so the prospect of yet another giant killing at the Emirates is surely nothing more than a pipe dream for the Piraeus powerhouses.