Olympiacos defender Sokratis Papastathopoulous has lauded the character and leadership qualities of Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka ahead of the Europa League meeting between the two clubs on Thursday.
Sokratis spent two-and-a-half years with the north London side, where he made 69 appearances in all competitions. He left them to join the Greek outfit in January after his contract was terminated.
The 32-year-old has since emerged as a key player for Olympiacos at the heart of the defence, and he will come up against his former employers in the first leg of the Europa League last 16 tie tomorrow.
Ahead of the game, he has spoken exclusively to football.london, where he has heaped praise on Xhaka, who has been in the news for the wrong reasons after his horrendous blunder against Burnley last weekend.
The Switzerland international has been one of the Gunners’ best-performing players over the past few months, but he gifted the Clarets a goal at Turf Moor which saw the club miss out on a victory.
When asked about Xhaka, Sokratis was full of praise and said that he is a significant player for the Gunners. He also talked about the midfielder’s resilient character and said that he won’t be affected by the howler at Turf Moor.
He said: “Granit is one of the best team-mates I’ve had the pleasure of working with. He’s a very important player for Arsenal, and I believe that he’s a good player who can be a leader in the team.”
“When you make one mistake everybody will go against you, but I know Granit’s character. Before the Burnley game, he played five or six games where he was probably the best player in the team.
“I think he’s one of Arsenal’s best players and certainly one of the best midfielders that I’ve played with.”
The Gunners were shockingly eliminated by Olympiacos in the round of 32 stage of the Europa League last term on the away-goal rule.
The north London side will be aiming for redemption. They are set to face the Greek champions at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in the first leg of the last 16 tomorrow.
The club should be familiar with the ground after playing the home leg of the last 32 tie against Benfica in the stadium due to coronavirus restrictions in the UK.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com