It’s do or die for Arsenal ahead of their final Champions League clash against Olympiakos.
Miserable results earlier in the campaign have heaped pressure on the Gunners ahead of their final Group F match, and they approach the final fixture in third place in the group.
It’s unfamiliar territory for Arsene Wenger’s side, who have made a habit of advancing to the knockout stages of the Champions League, and represents a major test for the French coach’s depleted charges.
Bayern Munich have confirmed their place as group leaders, and even if Olympiakos defeat the Gunners, they cannot overtake the Bavarian giants.
This means that Arsenal’s bout with Olympiakos is something of a straight shootout for the Last 16.
The advantage rests with the Greek side, who would advance with a draw. While the North London side need to win, a 1-0 or a 2-1 triumph will not be enough to see them through.
The Gunners must win by two clear goals or, as noted by the Telegraph, ‘by one goal in a match as high scoring as the reserve fixture’, which was a 3-2 triumph by the Greek side in North London.
Arsenal—as, it seems, is so often the case these days—are facing something of an injury crisis, with no fewer than eight first-team players out injured.
Petr Cech will start between the sticks, and he will likely be protected by a first-choice backline of Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal.
However, the problems start higher up the pitch.
Calum Chambers has been training in central midfield [Telegraph] in order to deputise for injured Francis Coquelin, and he’s likely to be partnered by Aaron Ramey, although the Welshman is only feeling his way back to full fitness and is unlikely to last the 90 minutes.
However, with Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla all out, the Gunners are short of options to replace him.
Barcelona to rival Liverpool, Tottenham for striking superstar
Liverpool and Tottenham transfer target opens £2.5m-per-year contract talks
£20m International stopper responds to Liverpool transfer talk; wants Champions League football
With Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck out, expect Olivier Giroud—who experienced such mixed fortunes against Sunderland—to lead the line, with Joel Campbell, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in support.
According to the Independent, Theo Walcott could be in line to make an unlikely return to action. Wenger will be hoping the oft-crocked England forward can emerge as his side’s hero.