Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has left several first-team players at home as his side travel to Greece to try and claim top spot in Group B of the Champions League. The Gunners, who secured their place in the knockout stage with victory over Montpellier two weeks ago, trail Schalke by a single point as they face Olympiakos, with the Germans facing a trip to France.
Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski are ruled out through injury, while Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Per Mertesacker will all be rested by Wenger. Of the team that suffered a painful 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea on Saturday, only Wojciech Szczesny, Thomas Vermaelen and Carl Jenkinson will be retained.
Wenger has claimed that his decision is not an indication that he is writing off Tuesday’s result.
“I just take this game as another one we want to win,” he said, according to the Arsenal website. “I believe the squad [I picked] is in the best interest of our ability to win the game because many players were on the edge on Saturday and honestly, if we were not qualified, I would have brought one or two more but not more than that.”
Arsenal’s senior stars have suffered an alarming dip in form domestically of late, as they have won just once in six Premier League games. In Athens, some of the latest crop of Arsenal’s youngsters are likely to get a run out with Wenger suggesting that Jernade Meade may start at left-back.
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Olympiakos have already secured a place in the Europa League, but will doubtless be looking to repeat their 3-1 victory over Arsenal in the Karaiskakis Stadium a year ago. The Greek league leaders also provided a stern test for the Gunners at the Emirates back in October before the home side eventually ran out 3-1 winners.
Leonardo Jardim’s side will be without Jose Holebas through suspension, while fellow Greece international defender Avraam Papadoupoulos remains a long-term absentee. Charalambos Lykogiannis will also be missing with an ankle injury.
D: Torosidis, Manolas, Contreras, Diakite
M: Siovas, Modesto
Machado, Maniatis, Greco
D: Jenkinson, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Meade
M: Coquelin, Ramsey
Gervinho, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Prediction: Olympiakos pose a daunting challenge at home, having won all seven league matches at the Karaiskakis Stadium. With the Gunners resting a slew of players, Olympiakos could well repeat their home success against Arsenal last season.
Olympiakos 2-1 Arsenal
Where to watch: The Champions League Group B match kicks-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by MSG Plus, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.