Arsenal once again find themselves needing to win a Champions League game by a certain number of goals to remain in the competition: last season it was Monaco, with Bayern in the two seasons prior to that and Milan in 2011/12 as they came agonisingly close to overcoming a 4-0 deficit from the first leg. Bayern are already through as group winners with these two left to fight for second place and since Arsenal trail Olympiakos by three points, to qualify for the second phase of the Champions League for the 16th consecutive season, they need to win this game by two clear goals, or by one goal while scoring at least three themselves.
Olympiakos’s only defeats in the Champions League this season have come against Bayern as they’ve beaten Zagreb twice and Arsenal away. Four of their five games had at least three goals and their Champions League home games have followed a similar pattern as six of their nine matches since 2013/14 had at least three goals and four had at least four.
Their record in these games was W7-D0-L2 with defeats against PSG and Bayern and wins against the likes of Juventus and Atletico Madrid. We have Olympiakos ranked as the 19th best side in Europe while Arsenal are 9th and Olympiakos’s home record against sides ranked between 4th and 14th since 2011/12 is an impressive W5-D0-L1 with the only defeat coming against PSG. Half of these games saw at least four goals as Olympiakos scored in all six but kept only two clean sheets.
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Defeats against Zagreb and Olympiakos in their opening two games are what might well cost Arsenal qualification from the group, despite that impressive win at home to Bayern. Their away record in the Champions League since 2013/14 is W5-D1-L4 including wins against Dortmund and Bayern, though they managed just one clean sheet in this time and this together with Olympiakos’s record of scoring in 13 of their 15 Champions League home games since 2011/12 means the Gunners could well need to score three here, something that only Bayern and PSG have achieved in this period. What’s more, Arsenal have a poor record at Olympiakos, having lost each of their three visits there since 2009/10 and the Gunners have a number of injury problems to contend with at the moment with Sanchez, Cazorla, and Coquelin all out, though they’re boosted by the return of Walcott and the return of Ramsey to his preferred central position.
This game is effectively a knockout match with Arsenal trailing by two goals after the first leg at home and the record of sides in Champions League knockout second legs away after losing the first home leg by two goals since 2012/13 is W4-D1-L2. Included within these results were Arsenal’s wins over Bayern and Monaco, who like the other teams in the sample sat on their leads and just did enough to get through. However, increasing the sample to include second-legs where there was either a one or two-goal deficit and going back to 2000/01 the results for the away side are significantly worse at W6-D11-L24 and even where the away team is higher in our rankings they are still just W2-D2-L2.
To back Arsenal at their current price we’d certainly want them to have a fully fit squad and instead there looks better value on Olympiakos, who may be able to pick the Gunners off on the break.
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