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Champions League match preview: Arsenal vs. Olympiacos

"Overall, I feel the bibs had tremendous mental quality, but perhaps they dip a little in the second half, I don't know"
"Overall, I feel the bibs had tremendous mental quality, but perhaps they dip a little in the second half, I don't know"

Arsenal vs. Olympiacos
Champions League group stage round two
Kickoff: Wednesday, September 28, 245 PM EDT
Emirates Stadium, Londinium
TV Coverings: Fox Soccer Plus, (subscribers only)

Arsenal welcome Greek Super League side Olympiacos Piraeus, the most successful side in Greek soccer history, to the Emirates for the second game of this year's group F stage. Olympiacos lost their first match in the group 1-0 to Marseille, who currently top the group. Olympiacos sit fifth in their domestic league at the moment, but they have only played two games so far, whereas most clubs have played three or four, and they have won both of them.

The Kokkini (Reds) fielded a 4-2-3-1 against Marseille in their first Champions League go-round, with "left midfielder" Avraam Papadopoulos ended up playing very deep (ESPN's gamecast actually has his average position deeper than their center halves, which maybe suggests ESPN's starting formation wasn't correct). Belgian forward Kevin Mirallas led the line, and he has one goal to his credit in the league so far, as does forward/attacking midfielder Marko Pantelic. The pair of them will most likely spearhead the attack tomorrow. The squad also features defender Olof Mellberg, who played 232 games for Aston Villa, and who knows some of Arsenal's team from his days in the Midlands.

Some hasty google translating of the official Olympiacos site (the best is "INCLUDED IN THE MISSION") revealed the following squad (with some names that are spelled quite differently):

After the workout, coach Ernesto Valverde team announced the names of 19 players included in the mission and who are: Kostanso, Meyer, Torosidis, A. Papadopoulos, Melmpergk, Markano, Cholempas, Papazoglou Potouridis, Ormpaith, Impagasa, Feisa, Modesto, Abdi, Makounta, Fousteri, Djebbour, Pantelits, Miralas.

Arsenal, of course, held on against a voracious Dortmund side to earn a draw in their first match, with Robin van Persie scoring a good goal on the counter just before halftime. Arsenal will almost certainly line up in a 4-2-3-1 again, but there are a number of significant injuries that they have to plan around, most notably in their back line. Thomas Vermaelen is still out, Johan Djourou is still out with a hamstring problem, and Sebastien Squillaci might be lost in a museum in Ghent for all anybody knows that this point.

Laurent Koscielny, who was huge in the match against Dortmund, has an ankle problem after a Nigle Reo-Coker tackle took him out against Bolton on Saturday, and he is unavailable as well. This means that Arsenal's two healthy center halves are Per Mertesacker, who was always going to start anyway, and Ignasi Miquel. Wenger may not want to start Miquel and Mertesacker side by side, though, as the latter isn't much quicker than Per is and is still quite inexperienced. Wenger has done stranger things (hey now), but look for Alex Song to slot in next to Mertesacker and Emmanuel Frimpong to play in Song's normal role shielding the back four.

Gervinho is out with a "very, very mild" muscular problem, and Yossi Benayoun and Theo Walcott are both out with minor injuries as well, which makes Wenger's selection fairly straightforward:

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Song, Gibbs; Frimpong, Arteta, Ramsey; Arshavin, van Persie, Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Look for Chamakh off the bench along with Ryo Miyaichi and Park Ju Young. Coquelin, Miquel, Fabianski, and Santos or Carl Jenkinson should round out the subs [EDIT: or maybe Tomas Rosicky. He's healthy!]

Prediction: Arsenal win 2-1 with a late goal from Olympiacos making things interesting. Arsenal's goals come from a van Persie shot low at the far post and a pizza delivery man who accidentally stumbles onto the pitch after collecting his tip from Boro Primorac. Oh, Boro.