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Mar 18, 2021 at 5.55pm UK

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Preview: Arsenal vs. Olympiacos - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Arsenal vs. Olympiacos - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Arsenal and Olympiacos, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Arsenal will hope to ease into the quarter-finals of the Europa League when they welcome Olympiacos to the Emirates Stadium for the second leg of their last-16 battle.

Goals from Martin Odegaard, Gabriel and Mohamed Elneny saw the hosts ease to a 3-1 win in the first leg, but Olympiacos know a thing or two about causing shocks at the Emirates.

Match preview

Gunners fans would have paid a pretty penny for Dani Ceballos's thoughts in the first leg, as the Real Madrid loanee - who was also at fault against Benfica in the last 32 - cheaply gave the ball away and allowed Arsenal's public enemy number one Youssef El Arabi to level the scores after Odegaard's stunning opener.

Just mere days after another catastrophic attempt at playing out from the back against Burnley, Gooners may have been expecting their side to be the masters of their own downfall once more, but thanks to a powerful header from Gabriel and yet another long-range thunderbolt from Elneny, Ceballos's mistake did not matter too much in the grand scheme of things.

Mikel Arteta's trophy cabinet already boasts an FA Cup and Community Shield, and the former midfield maestro would dearly love to claim European silverware in his first full season in charge, especially with a top-four pursuit seemingly dead in the water despite a recent upturn in fortunes.

Indeed, Arsenal followed up their first-leg triumph with a dominant showing against Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby, as Odegaard once again stole the show while Alexandre Lacazette continued his terrific record against Spurs from the spot after Erik Lamela's outrageous Rabona, and the Gunners have now won four out of their last five in all competitions.

Arteta will no doubt take the second leg seriously, especially seeing as his side have now gone 10 games without a clean sheet since January's goalless stalemate with Manchester United, but this game also offers the Spaniard the chance to utilise his resources on the bench before the weekend's London derby with a Champions League-chasing West Ham United side.

Olympiacos, and El Arabi in particular, will have fond memories of their trip to the Emirates in the 2019-20 Europa League, but nostalgia counts for nothing as the Greek giants attempt to overturn a 3-1 deficit in the English capital.

Pedro Martins's men had their chances in the first leg, although they were mainly gifted to them by the Gunners' disastrous attempts at knocking it around in their defensive third, and chalking up at least three goals at the Emirates - albeit an empty one - is no mean feat for even the best sides in Europe.

Nevertheless, Olympiacos have found the back of the net in their last 24 matches across all competitions since losing 2-0 to Porto in the Champions League group stage back in December, and despite a raft of changes with the second leg in mind, Martins's men eased past Larissa 3-1 in their final match of the regular Super League season.

Unsurprisingly, Olympiacos topped the table by a whopping 16 points over Aris Thessaloniki, and while their attention will soon turn to the playoff round, the Greek giants are simply hoping to avoid yet another last-16 exit in the Europa League, having never advanced past this stage of the tournament.

While Arsenal's clean sheet record is hardly spectacular, Olympiacos have had their defence breached on their last six outings on unfamiliar territory and have won just two of their last nine Europa League knockout games away from home, so the prospect of yet another giant killing at the Emirates is surely nothing more than a pipe dream for the Piraeus powerhouses.

Arsenal Europa League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Arsenal form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Olympiacos Europa League form:
  • W
  • L
  • L

Olympiacos form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • W

Team News

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cut a frustrated figure on the bench against Spurs after he was dropped for disciplinary reasons, but he should be reinstated to the first XI this week.

On a more negative note, Arteta confirmed that teenage starlet Bukayo Saka had to be withdrawn at the weekend due to a hamstring problem, and while he is in with a chance of being involved, Nicolas Pepe could benefit from his possible absence on the right-hand side.

With the weekend's London derby in mind, Pablo Mari and Hector Bellerin are both in contention to return to the rearguard, while Ceballos could earn a place in midfield with one of Granit Xhaka or Thomas Partey due a rest.

Former Arsenal man Sokratis will likely be partnered with makeshift centre-back Yann M'Vila upon his return to the Emirates, as Ruben Semedo and Avraam Papadopoulos remain in the treatment room while Ousseynou Ba is doubtful with a back problem.

Martins rotated heavily against Larissa with this game taking priority, so the two returning full-backs in Kenny Lala and Oleg Reabciuk should line up in North London, while Mady Camara and Mathieu Valbuena are also set to return to the midfield.

Despite his goal at the weekend, Ahmed Hassan should drop down to the bench for El Arabi, who bagged his 22nd goal of the season as a substitute in Sunday's win.

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Bellerin, Luiz, Mari, Tierney; Xhaka, Ceballos; Pepe, Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Aubameyang

Olympiacos possible starting lineup:
Sa; Lala, Sokratis, M'Vila, Reabciuk; Camara, Bouchalakis; Bruma, Valbuena, Masouras; El Arabi

We say: Arsenal 2-1 Olympiacos

Arsenal had only managed to triumph 1-0 in Greece last season before their humiliating exit, so a 3-1 advantage will certainly give Arteta's side the confidence needed to get the job done on home soil, especially after a dominant North London derby win. Martins will hope to rally his troops and convince them that they are capable of another Emirates shock, but an in-form Arsenal should be too strong for the visitors - despite some expected rotation - and we are backing Arteta's men to book their spot in the quarter-finals with minimal trouble.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home Win:data

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