Arsenal are 90 minutes from redemption. The demons from last year’s shocking 119th minute defeat at the Emirates to Olympiacos are on course to be exorcised. The Gunners come into today with a commanding two goal aggregate lead with three away goals total. Blowing that lead would be a collapse of epic proportions.
Arsenal’s 3-1 win last week in Greece was a dominating performance. Youssef El-Arabi’s goal was a gift from Bernd Leno and Dani Ceballos (coincidentally, El-Arabi scored the knockout goal last season, I’d really like for him to stop scoring against Arsenal, thanks). Olympiacos offered precious little in the match otherwise. So on the one hand, it feels as if Arsenal should be able to take care of business today. On the other, Olympiacos can’t play any worse, right? They’re definitely going to offer more resistance today.
Fortunately, the visitors have to score three to give themselves a shot at moving on. A 2-0 scoreline won’t do it because Arsenal would advance on away goals from a 3-3 aggregate. The flip side of that is that the Gunners getting one doesn’t really make all that much of a difference to Olympiacos. Yes, they’d have to score a fourth (or win in penalties), but as we saw last year [voice trails off].
Mikel Arteta may be without the services of Bukayo Saka, who was forced off against Tottenham with a small hamstring problem. Fortunately for the Gunners, it wasn’t a serious injury and Saka might be available today. It would be great if Arteta ends up not needing him anyway. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is expected to return to the starting lineup after being benched for showing up late at the weekend — Mikel Arteta has made it quite clear that he considers the issue resolved and that everybody has moved on.
Olympiacos will be without defenders Ruben Semedo and Avraam Papadopoulos, meaning that familiar face Sokratis will partner with Yann M’Vila (not normally a CB) in the middle of the defense. M’Vila will likely have to deputize again because Ousseynou Ba, another of the Greek side’s CBs is also unlikely to be available.
UPDATE: Ba is available and starting for the visitors. Pushes M’Vila into the midfield.
There really isn’t room for failure here. Arsenal have a good shot at winning the Europa League outright, which would be a massive boost for the club and would accelerate the rebuild timeline dramatically. Blowing their first leg lead would be a gigantic failure, but I’ve got confidence that Mikel Arteta’s men will get the job done today.
Arsenal - Leno, Bellerín, David Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney, Elneny, Xhaka, Ceballos, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang, Pepe
Olympiacos - Sa, Holebas, Ba, Sokratis, Reabciuk, Camara, M’Vila, Androutsos, Fortounis, Masouras, El Arabi
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Olympiacos
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Thursday, March 18th 10:55 AM PT | 1:55 PM ET | 5:55 PM BT
US TV: Streaming on Paramount+ ($$$ — formerly CBS All-Access, if you had a subscription, it was rolled over). Also streaming on FuboTV ($$$).
For all your international streaming needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com. Please do not share or discuss links to illegal streams here.
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