Guaranteed top spot in the group and with a squad crippled by injuries, Arsenal have flown out a very inexperienced side to Athens for their final group game with a number of their starting lineup rested for the big weekend game against Liverpool.
Wenger will be hoping that his young players can preserve their unbeaten record in the competition – and it’s also a good time for the fringe players to prove themselves and push for a more regular place in the starting line up.
Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Carlos Vela and Jack Wilshere are all expected to start at the Karaiskakis stadium and Arsenal fans will be hoping that with the team not performing to expectations in the league this quartet can step up and shoulder more of the responsibility in creating and scoring goals on a regular basis.
The most senior players are Mikael Silvestre and Alex Song, with Silvestre expected to skipper the side. It’s not going to be a walk in the park for the kids though, as Olympiacos have a point to prove and need at least a point to guarantee their own progress to the knockout stages.
Olympiacos can still qualify even if they lose IF Standard Liege fail to beat AZ Alkmaar in Belgium. Liege have hopes of their own for progress to the second round so Zico’s side will need to take care of their own destiny.
Olympiacos come into the game on the back of a 1-0 win over Skoda Xanthi at the weekend and remain top of the Greek top-flight.
They have kept 14 clean sheets in 23 competitive fixtures so far this season and Arsenal’s young guns will have to work hard to break their opponents down.
Arsenal team news
William Gallas (hamstring), Emmanuel Eboue (muscle), Armand Traore (hamstring), Andrey Arshavin (ankle), and Tomas Rosicky (groin) all picked up knocks for Arsenal against Stoke and have not travelled.
Robin van Persie (ankle), Nicklas Bendtner (groin) and Kieran Gibbs (metatarsal) are long-term injuries, captain Cesc Fabregas has not travelled with the squad, while Abou Diaby (calf), Bacary Sagna (ankle), Johan Djourou (knee), Gael Clichy (back) and Denilson (back) also stay at home.
Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia has not flown out and he could be replaced by Lucasz Fabianski, while Thomas Vermaelen and Samir Nasri are also rested.
Olympiacos team news
Cristian Ledesma has recently had surgery on a knee problem ruling him out until the end of the year while Andreas Vasilogiannis could be sidelined until March.
Jaouad Zairi missed the trip to Xanthi due to a thigh injury while Vassilis Torosidis has recovered from a knee problem but was diagnosed with swine flu last Thursday.
English striker Matt Derbyshire has been out of action since September with a groin problem while there are also injury concerns over Diogo (knee), Leonidas Panagopoulos (back), Ieroklis Stoltidis (chest) and Michal Zewlakow (groin).
Top spot is secured which means Arsene Wenger has the opportunity to rest some first teamers in this final Champions League match of the group stage. Arsenal are 11/4 to beat the Olympiacos and finish the group undefeated. It’s going to be a hotbed in the Athens stadium and a big test for this Arsenal team. If they can come away from the game undefeated it will make a very impressive start to the campaign.
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