Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Olympiacos, Champions League Group Matchday 2

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, September 29
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from the Netherlands
    • Referee: Bas Nijhuis
    • Assistants: Rob van de Ven and Charles Schaap
    • 4th Official: Mario Diks
    • Additional Assistants: Kevin Blom and Danny Makkelie
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 3 Arsenal wins, 3 Olympiacos wins
  • Arsenal's European Form: D-W-W-L-W // L
  • Olympiacos's European Form: L-L-W-L-D // L
It's still September and it's only Champions League group matchday number two, but thanks to Arsenal's... escapades... in Croatia on matchday one, they've already been thrust into a must-win situation.

There's no way around it; if Arsenal lose this match, you should probably start making sure your Thursdays are free in 2016. It's not like Bayern Munich are going to make things any easier. I heard Robert Lewandowski is going to score 12 goals against Dinamo Zagreb tonight.

I pretty much have nothing more to say about this topic.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Arteta (knock,) Flamini (hamstring,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)
Suspended: Giroud (one match, two yellows)

After Francis Coquelin suffered a knee injury at Stamford Bridge, Mathieu Flamini came in for him in the holding midfield role. On Wednesday, the Flammening was upon us, as Flamini scored twice in the North London derby. On Saturday, the Flammening ended as quickly as it arrived, as the Frenchman was removed with a hamstring injury on 20 minutes.

Mikel Arteta came on for Flamini and finished out the match but he, in addition to Flamini, will be out for tonight's match. There's some good news here in that 1) these are both "short-term injuries," though I don't really know what that means in Arsenal lingo and 2) Francis Coquelin has recovered from his knee injury and should be back anyway.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that David Ospina will start over Petr Cech. It's unclear if Arsene Wenger is using the Colombian as a cup keeper across more than just the domestic cups or if this is just a case of rotation. I'd really prefer to see Cech against Bayern Munich on matchdays three and four.

Olivier Giroud will serve a one-match ban for his red card on matchday one, meaning Theo Walcott will retain his place up top. There might be some more rotation in the squad as well; Arsene Wenger will have to balance the must-win status of this game against the fact that Manchester United visit the Emirates on Sunday.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott.

Olympiacos Squad News

Out: Da Costa (calf,) Maniatis (knee)
Doubts: Dominguez (match fitness)
Suspended: Milivojevic (second of two)

One time West Ham center back Manuel da Costa, purchased from Sivasspor this summer, is expected to miss out through injury (though, other sources I've read have claimed he could be a "surprise return.") Injury news for some European sides is really hard to come by, so your guess is as good as mine. UEFA's press kit suggests he's out with both a calf injury and meniscus tear.

Giannis Maniatis has been out since March with a knee ligament injury while Alejandro Dominguez lacks match fitness. Luka Milivojevic serves the second match of a two-match ban after a red card in Olympiacos's final European match last year.

Olympiacos has four ex-Premier League players in their squad, including the already mentioned da Costa. They also have Ideye Brown, who spent last year at West Brom, Pajtim Kasami, formerly of Fulham, as well as Esteban Cambiasso, who spent last season at Leicester City.

Predicted XI: Roberto, Elabdellaoui, Botia, Slovas, Masuaku, Salino, Kasami, Cambiasso, Fortounis, Pardo, Ideye.

Current Form

After two straight losses nearly led to full-scale panic mode, Arsenal have rebounded by winning two straight. They have yet to win three matches in a row this season and have not won three on the bounce since a nine-match run that ended back in April. Last season, Arsenal did not go on a three-match winning streak until late October, so there's still time to improve on that!

Meanwhile, Olympiacos have a perfect five wins from five matches in Greek domestic play, though they lost their only Champions League match, 3-0 to Bayern Munich, on matchday one.

Match Facts

Arsenal and Olympiacos have met in the group stage of the Champions League in 2009, 2011, and 2012. In all three years, Arsenal won the home match but lost in Greece. Of course, in all three instances, the match in Greece was a dead rubber on matchday six.

The last time Olympiacos played at the Emirates, Arsenal were unconvincing in the first half and the match was level, 1-1, at halftime. A Lukas Podolski goal in the 56th minute gave Arsenal a 2-1 lead and Aaron Ramsey sealed the points with a goal in injury time. In Greece, Arsenal led through Tomas Rosicky, but conceded twice in the second half to lose 2-1. As mentioned, that match was a dead rubber, as Arsenal made seven changes to their starting XI from their previous league match.

In eight tries, Arsenal have never lost at home to a Greek opponent; on the other hand, Olympiacos have lost all 12 matches they have played on the road in England.

The Referee

The match officials are from the Netherlands; the referee is Bas Nijhuis. Nijhuis has never worked an Arsenal match before but he has worked one match for Olympiacos, a 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the 2011 group stage.

Nijhuis's most controversial moment came shortly after that match, in December of 2011 in a Netherlands cup tie between AZ Alkmaar and Ajax. When an Ajax fan invaded the pitch and attacked AZ goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado, Nijhuis sent off the goalkeeper for kicking the fan in self-defense. AZ's manager responded by pulling his team off the pitch and the match was abandoned.

Nijhuis has been a referee since the age of 15. His father was a referee. His father's father was a referee. His... well, no, actually, the last one wasn't even true.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Barcelona v. Bayer Leverkusen; Camp Nou, Barcelona
  • Tuesday: BATE Borisov v. Roma; Borisov Arena, Barysaw
  • Tuesday: Bayern Munich v. Dinamo Zagreb; Allianz Arena, Munich
  • Tuesday: Porto v. Chelsea; Estadio do Dragao, Porto
  • Tuesday: Maccabi Tel-Aviv v. Dynamo Kiev; Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa
  • Tuesday: Lyon v. Valencia; Stade de Gerland, Lyon
  • Tuesday: Zenit St. Petersburg v. Gent; Petrovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
  • Wednesday: Malmo v. Real Madrid; Swedbank Stadion, Malmo
  • Wednesday: Shakhtar Donetsk v. Paris St. Germain; Arena Lviv, Lviv
  • Wednesday: CSKA Moscow v. PSV Eindhoven; Arena Khimki, Khimki
  • Wednesday: Manchester United v. Wolfsburg; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Atletico Madrid v. Benfica; Estadio Vicente Calderon, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Astana v. Galatasaray; Astana Arena, Astana
  • Wednesday: Borussia Monchengladbach v. Manchester City; Borussia-Park, Monchengladbach
  • Wednesday: Juventus v. Sevilla; Juventus Stadium, Turin
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is so very tired. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to try to keep him awake.