Olympiakos v Arsenal, Champions League, December 9, 2009
“You will see Fran, Wilshere etc… We played Man City last week and they had a full side out. For an hour we did not suffer at all. After that yes we did. I will try to build a similar team in Greece. It will be a great game for them because Olympiacos will play for something. It is another good opportunity to show that we can do better than we did at Man City.” â€“ Arsene Wenger.
After their disappointing display at Eastlands in the Carling Cup last week, Arsenal are set to field their Young Guns again in Greece, with top spot in Group C already secure.
With Tomas Rosicky the latest Gunner to succumb to a long-term injury, speculation is rife that Arsene Wenger will play the youngest ever Champions League side in this match and with a trip to Anfield coming up next Sunday, you can hardly blame â€œThe Professorâ€ for resting his first team stars.
This should be another great opportunity for a host of youngsters who are highly rated and with the current injury problems at the Emirates, especially in forward positions, this could be the time to seal a place in the first team. Carlos Vela (6/1 to score first, 7/4 to score anytime) and Jack Wilshere (9/1 to score & Arsenal win) will surely feel now is an opportune time to produce a display that will push Wenger into picking them for a more important fixture.
Mikael Silvestre (16/1 to score) is expected to captain this young side which will also include Spaniard Fran Merida and Craig Eastmond, two midfielders who impressed in the run to the Carling Cup quarter finals. With Tomas Rosicky missing from the side that played at Eastlands last week we could well get a glimpse of midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong or striker Sanchez Watt who are the latest starlets on Arsenalâ€™s books.
Olympiakos need just a draw to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition but if they lose they can still be caught by Standard Liege. The Greek giants have won their last two domestic games (including a victory over great rivals Panathinaikos) and under Brazilian coach Zico they lead the Super League table after sacking Temuri Ketsbaia earlier on in the campaign.
They havenâ€™t been so great in the Champions League and appear to have received a hugely favourable draw against two of the weakest teams in the group stages (AZ Alkmaar and Standard Liege). The young Arsenal players will know some of the famous faces in the Olympiakos side, including Olof Mellberg (6/1 to score) and Raul Bravo (12/1 to score) at the back.
Further forward Brazilian Dudu and Spaniard Enzo Maresca (14/1 to score first & Olympiakos win) will be instructed to prompt from midfield and Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou (11/2 to score first) is a burgeoning young striker who has already claimed eight goals this season. The home side will though be without Vassilis Torisidis, one of the up and coming stars of Greek football and former Blackburn striker Matt Derbyshire, who are both injured.
In the first match between these teams in September, Arsenal pummeled Olympiakos for much of the match but came up against Euro 2008 hero Antonis Nikopolidis who was in inspired form in goal. Late goals from Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin (7/4 to score) saw the Gunners to victory.
It would be a major surprise if Olympiakos donâ€™t secure the point they need in this one, backed by vociferous home support against a significantly weaker than normal Arsenal side.
101gg predicts: Olympiakos 1 â€“ Arsenal 1 (9/2)
Full match odds here.