Betting Match Preview: Arsenal v Olympiakos (Champions League)

Arsenal v Olympiakos, Champions League, September 29, 2009

Arsenal 1/5; Draw 4/1; Olympiakos 10/1

Vito Mannone was the star performer for the Gunners at Craven Cottage on Saturday but the young Italian is unlikely to be as busy against the Greek giants as Arsenal look to build on their comeback win at Standard Liege in their first Champions League group game. (Arsenal are 1/2 to keep a clean sheet.)

The perennial winners of the Greek Super League (five consecutive seasons now) made headlines across Europe when they sacked Temuri Ketsbaia prior to their first Champions League group game at home to AZ Alkmaar. The former Newcastle striker had only been appointed in May and did not even preside over a competitive defeat.

Brazilian legend Zico has taken over and Olympiakos will be confident of qualifying from Group H after winning 1-0 against AZ in their first game. The former Japan and CSKA Moscow coach has a host of familiar faces to call upon as well as some attacking talent that could trouble Gallas, Vermaelen and co.

The familiar grey-haired Antonis Nikopolidis, Greek hero of 2004, will start behind former Aston Villa defender Olof Mellberg and ex-Leeds and Real Madrid left back Raul Bravo. (Olympiakos are 15/2 to keep a clean sheet.) The list of former Premier League players doesn’t stop there, Didier Domi (who failed to cover himself in glory at Newcastle) and former Blackburn striker Matt Derbyshire are also part of the squad although both are unlikely to play a part at the Emirates.

Zico has no shortage of attacking talent to call on to trouble the Gunners with. Countrymen Dudu (who could be a threat from free-kicks) and highly-rated striker Diogo are the players to watch out for. Italian Enzo Maresca, who began his career at West Brom, before spells at Juventus and Sevilla is another to who may well enjoy coming back to England. (Olympiakos are 33/1 to win both halves.)

The one exciting prospect to keep an eye on is Vassilis Torosidis, a 24-year-old Greek international who already has over 23 caps to his name. He scored two goals against AEK Athens last week, one of which was a real cracker and despite being well established in the Olympiakos side could well play in an attacking role despite establishing himself as a right-sided wing back for his club and a left-sided defender for his country.

Arsenal’s home form in the Champions League against this sort of team is pretty formidable. We can expect a much more polished performance against Olympiakos than the one seen against Fulham and Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie will relish the opportunity to get amongst the goals before the home match with Blackburn. (Arsenal are 2/5 to win to nil.)

In a group that already looked like being on the soft side, a win here will establish Arsenal’s dominance and it would be a real shock if Mannone is the busier of the two keepers.

101gg predicts: Arsenal 2 – Olympiakos 0 (9/2)

Arsenal 1/5; Draw 4/1; Olympiakos 10/1

Full match odds here.


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