THE GREAT ESCAPE: Champions League Preview

Olympiakos v Arsenal, Wednesday 9th December (7.45pm KO)

 

Arsenal require a win against the Greek outfit this evening to progress through to the last 16 of the Champions League knock out stages.

 

Last night Manchester United crashed out of Europe’s elite football competition after a 3 – 2 away defeat to VfLWolfsburg. This sent shockwaves around Britain. How could a club of this stature be prematurely KO’d from the Champions League, a competition they won merely 7 years ago?

 

Will the Gunners suffer the same fate?

 

Arsenal can only qualify for the last 16 as Group F runners-up if they better Olympiakos 3-2 win at the Emirates.

 

A 1-0 or 2-1 win will not be enough. The Gunners require 3-2 or a higher score line to give them a better head-to-head record than their Greek rivals in the group.

 

With this score line, Arsenal would then finish above Olympiakos on overall goal difference.

 

The Stats

  • In Greece, Arsenal have drawn one and lost four of their last five games

 

  • The Gunners have won seven and lost four of their last 13 European away fixtures

 

  • Olympiakos are aiming to progress to the knock out stages of the Champions League for the second time in three seasons.

 

  • Olympiakos are currently unbeaten in six home Champions League ties against English opposition; winning five of those games

 

YOU GOTTA HAVE FAITH!!

 

There have been many great escapes in Champions League folklore, from which Arsenal can draw strength.

 

Here are some of the best.

 

FC PORTO 2003/2004

 

FC Porto after being crowned UEFA Cup winners in season 2002/2003 began their attack on the UEFA Champions League under the leadership of a young, Jose Mourinho.

 

The Portuguese side did not get off to a good start in their first group game against Partizan. Porto drew one all with the Serbians in their away fixture. There home leg against Real Madrid seen Jose Mourinho’s side hammered 3 – 1. All seemed lost, until the young Mourinho wielded his magic and defeated French side, Marseille in a double header (3 – 2 away then 1 – 0 at home). Porto would later go on to win 2 – 1 at home against Partizan and draw with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

After the home defeat to Real Madrid left the Portugese side one point from two games all seemed lost. But eventually, Porto stormed through the competition taking a staggering 10 points from a possible 12.

 

Porto went on to reach the final in Germany, and were crowned the Champions of Europe defeating Monaco 3 – 0.

 

LIVERPOOL 2004/2005

 

In their opening group match Liverpool comfortably won 2 – 0 against Monaco. The Reds struggled to pick up points in Greece however, and Olympiakos finished them off with a 1 – 0 win. Liverpool again struggled to make the grade, and drew 0 – 0 at Anfield against Deportivo La Coruna. That meant Liverpool had only taken four points in three games.

 

In the return leg against Deportivo away, Liverpool won 1 – 0. However defeat at Monaco meant that Liverpool required a victory by two clear goals against Olympiakos (sound familiar?).

 

Liverpool initially went behind after a well worked Rivaldo free kick. This set piece set the stage for one of the most dramatic comebacks in Liverpool’s and Champions League history.

 

Liverpool scored two minutes after the game restarted through Florent Sinama-Pongolle. The second goal came from Neil Mellor who scored in the 81st minute. The Reds needed a goal, and who better to pop up and deliver it than Captain Fantastic himself – Steven George Gerrard.

 

25 yards out, dying minutes of the game, in front of the Kop and boom – GOAL!!

 

3 – 1 Liverpool.

 

Of course, if you know your history, the Reds later went on to produce arguably the greatest Champions League final ever. Does anyone remember the certain heroics of one Jerzy Dudek? Simply unforgettable.

 

WERDER BREMEN 2005/2006

 

The German side collected merely four points from five games during their Champions League campaign. Going into their final fixture against Greek side Panathinaikos they needed a victory, of four or more goals and Barcelona to beat Italian side Udinese. To summarise, they needed a miracle. And by God, did they get one.

 

The Germans battered Panathinaikos 5 – 1, they has done their bit. Barcelona however left it late to seal a victory over Udinese, scoring twice in the final 5 minutes of the match.

 

Bremen would later be knocked out by Juventus in the last 16 but they gave us a hell of moment to remember.

 

OLMPIAKOS V ARSENAL 2015/2016

 

Will there be another great escape?

 

Arsenal awaits their fate this evening. If they do drop out of the competition it will be the first time in 16 consecutive seasons.

 

The Gunners will have to progress without star striker Alexi Sanchez and midfielder Santi Carzola. Arsenal did secure a comfortable 3 – 1 at home against Sunderland at the weekend taking the London side to 2nd place in the Premier League. They will have to build on that confidence and their success in domestic competition to give them any sort of chance of completing the great escape.

 

“Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be.

The Future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera!”

 

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