After tonight’s game, we will know our future in Europe. Can we continue into the Round of 16 in the Champions League (for the 16th season in a row) or will we be forced to drop down into the Europa League alongside Manchester United? The road is a tough one; we will need to beat hosts Olympiacos by a two goal margin to stand a chance of qualification. But it is a hole we have dug ourselves into, and we need to dig ourselves out tonight to prove once and for all that Arsenal are serious competitors both at home and in Europe.
The injuries we have suffered over the past few weeks might come back to haunt us tonight. We may regret the absence of Sanchez as we go searching for that final goal, or Coquelin as we try to defend a slim lead. But we have to make do with the players available, and they certainly will not be lacking for morale considering that their first team futures are on the line.
Here is our predicted lineup for tonight.
Petr Cech in goal. The veteran’s heroics saved us against Sunderland, and he will surely be called upon tonight as well since we will be very vulnerable to counterattacks. Hopefully the Czech international is just as sharp as he was over the weekend.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny will be the starting centre back pairing, since the manager is unlikely to want to make any unnecessary changes tonight. Wenger prefers playing his most experienced defenders in the big games, and there are few games that will be bigger than tonight.
Out on the flanks, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal should retain their starting slots. Bellerin has struggled a bit since returning from injury, but is still the better of our two right backs. Meanwhile, Monreal is enjoying a run of form at the moment and is a guaranteed starter.
The new pairing of Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey is likely to continue tonight, as the manager is sure to prefer experience for such a big game. Flamini, although slow, is much more experienced that the alternative of Calum Chambers, and that should guarantee him that starting spot. Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey is one of the key players of the side and will be the main conduit between the defence and Mesut Ozil up front.
Mesut Ozil will retain his No. 10 berth. The German international is arguably the best midfielder in the Premier League at the moment, and his performance will be key to deciding whether we emerge victorious against Olympiacos.
Joel Campbell should start on the left once more. The Costa Rican had a good game against the Black Cats and got his name on the score sheet as well. He will be looking to add to his tally tonight.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the likely starter on the right. The Englishman had a forgettable game last time out, as he made no significant contributions to the game. He really needs to start taking his chances if he wants a regular starting spot at the Emirates, and there is no better time for him to prove himself.
Up front, Olivier Giroud should be the starter for Arsenal. The Frenchman is on a decent run of form and scored a well-taken header against Sunderland. He will likely be given the start and told to make an early impact, while Theo Walcott will be reserved to come on in the second half and use his pace against a tiring defence if required.