Arsenal set for emotional Europa League reunion as Mikel Arteta plots revenge mission


Tomorrow marks exactly one year since Arsenal were knocked out of the Europa League to a last-gasp goal in extra time.

Their opponents that night? Olympiacos.

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A few days later the coronavirus started to unravel in the UK and sport in particular came to a halt as countries all over the world began to go into lockdown.

Fast forward one year and those restrictions are still in place for many. Elite sport has continued and Arsenal under manager Mikel Arteta find themselves in the last 16 of the Europa League thanks to a last-minute winner from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Benfica at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece.

Former Arsenal defender Sokratis now plays for Olympiacos.

Yes, Aubameyang – who missed a gilt-edged opportunity to send Arsenal through at the same stage last season has set up another encounter with the Greek giants. This time though Arteta’s side are well placed to exact revenge on their opponents and they will know the stadium very well after being forced to play their due to coronavirus restrictions.

The Gunners will have played Olympiacos 12 times in 12 years once these matches are complete and they have generally come out on top over the years. Former Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos will come up against his old team and he will certainly feel like he has a point to prove against a manager who exiled him from the Premier League and Europa League squads at the start of the season.

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Both legs are expected to be played in their respective stadiums although fans are not expected to be allowed into the stadiums just yet. That may have come too early but Arsenal’s intention to progress to the latter stages of the tournament they were prematurely knocked out of remains clear.

Those defensive mistakes that Olympiacos exposed last season were still on show in Athens as Benfica took advantage of two Dani Ceballos mistakes to almost knock the Gunners out of the tournament. The errors remain in the Arsenal team, but what they do possess is an attacking triumvirate to rival any other side in the Europa League.

Since the start of last season, no player has provided more assists in the Europa League than Bukayo Saka (8). The England starlet is Arteta’s most important player and the role he can take up in bringing Arsenal to the latter stages of the competition cannot be understated. Similarly, after Aubameyang’s miss against Olympiacos in the game last season he will be desperate to exact revenge.

Some fixtures are written in the stars and whilst Olympiacos vs Arsenal was one of the more predictable outcomes in the last 16 draw, they will now be given a second opportunity to overcome the Greek Gods and power their way through the Europa League





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