Gunners to come out firing

Arsene Wenger (centre) has a proud record in the Champions League - his Arsenal team have qualified for the knockout stages for 15 straight seasons. But he is without key players like Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla for tonight's crucial tie against
Arsene Wenger (centre) has a proud record in the Champions League - his Arsenal team have qualified for the knockout stages for 15 straight seasons. But he is without key players like Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla for tonight's crucial tie against Olympiakos.PHOTO: REUTERS

Undesirable result will see club playing in Europa League and cost them $21m

LONDON • Arsenal know exactly what they need to do against Olympiakos in today's do-or-die Champions League tie and the club will give their all to qualify for the knockout stages for a 16th consecutive year, vowed Arsene Wenger.

The Gunners need to beat the Greek champions at the Karaiskakis Stadium either by two clear goals, or by any margin with Arsenal scoring at least three goals to progress to the round of 16.

Failure to do so will see them drop into the Europa League, and is expected to cost the club at least £10 million (S$21.1 million).

"Personally, the record means a lot because it's important for the club and for the players.

"I want to win and I want to qualify. For me, our job is to win the next game, and do what is requested," said Wenger.

However, he will be missing seven players, including Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere.

  • Selected FA Cup 3rd-round games

  • •Arsenal v Sunderland

    •Tottenham v Leicester

    •Norwich v Manchester City

    •Southampton v Crystal Palace

    •Watford v Newcastle

    •Manchester United v Sheffield United

    •Chelsea v Leyton Orient

    •Exeter v Liverpool

    •West Brom v Bristol City

    •West Ham v Wolves

    •Everton v Dagenham or Whitehawk

    •Wycombe v Aston Villa

    •Doncaster v Stoke

    •Birmingham v Bournemouth

    •Oxford v Swansea

    Ties to be played between Jan 8 and 11.

  • [Heading]

    [Porta ac consectetur ac morbi leo risus]

"There is one positive thing for us - we know exactly what we have to do. We know that we have to go for it from the start.

"So let's do that and, hopefully, we can get through."

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who excelled playing in central midfield and scored in Saturday's Premier League 3-1 win over Sunderland, said Arsenal will have to choose their moments to attack.

Olympiakos won the reverse tie at the Emirates 3-2 despite having just 30 per cent of the ball.

And Ramsey knows Arsenal can ill-afford to concede a goal today.

"We have to choose the right times to do that but we will always create opportunities - just hopefully we can stop them, keep a clean sheet and grab a couple of goals ourselves," he said.

In-form playmaker Mesut Oezil agreed, having seen defensive errors by goalkeeper David Ospina and defender Kieran Gibbs lead to Olympiakos' goals in September.

"If we score an early goal, I'm confident that we can win this game and go through.

"I hope that I can help the team with a good performance on the night," the scorer of four goals and creator of 12 assists in 19 matches in all competitions this campaign told the London Evening Standard.

"We know that we have a lot of quality up front but our goal is to go into half-time ahead and then we will know that everything is possible. We have to also be careful in defence that we don't concede a goal.

"Olympiakos can play good football - we saw that in the first match. They want to play on the counter-attack but we can't concede goals like we did again."

For Olympiakos, the match is being billed by the local media as a defining moment in a breakthrough year for the Portuguese coach, Marco Silva.

The 38-year-old has led the Greeks to 12 successive Super League victories since the season kicked off as they chase a host of club records. Silva has also won widespread praise for the club's performances in Europe.

Greece midfielder Kostas Fortounis, one of the outstanding players for Olympiakos this season, is relishing the game with Arsenal.

"This is a showdown, no doubt about it, out of which only one team can claim qualification to the next stage," he said after their 4-3 win at Panthrakikos at the weekend, a result that gave them a 10-point lead at the top of the Super League.

Olympiakos are relatively injury-free but Silva must decide whether to include fit-again midfielder Esteban Cambiasso in place of Luka Milivojevic or Pajtim Kasami.

REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2015, with the headline 'GUNNERS TO COME OUT FIRING'. Print Edition | Subscribe