Arsenal v Olympiakos: Improving Gunners to reach last 16
Arsenal are starting to really motor under Mikel Arteta, and Kevin Hatchard can't see Olympiakos slowing them down on Thursday.
Arsenal v Olympiakos Thursday 27 February, 20:00 Live on BT Sport
Gunners starting to move through the gears
Whisper it very softly, but Mikel Arteta might just be on the right track at Arsenal. A 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle was followed by a battling 1-0 win at Olympiakos, and then the Gunners had to play incredibly well to edge out Everton in a 3-2 thriller. 18-year-old re-purposed left-back Bukayo Saka is having a whale of a time - he set up the winner in Greece last week, and he has an assist in four of his last five appearances. Summer signing Nicolas Pepe has also come good - he has a goal and three assists in his last three appearances.
Arsenal have now won four of their last five home matches in all competitions, and they have put themselves in a strong position in the tie. Arsenal have won seven of their last eight UEL home matches, and another win here will propel them into the last 16. Arsenal are trading at 8.20to win the Europa League, and given that winning the tournament remains arguably their most likely route to Champions League qualification, it's certainly a bet worth considering.
That said, not everything is perfect. Bernd Leno had to make a couple of excellent saves in Athens last week, and at the heart of defence, David Luiz remains a source of heart-in-the-mouth inducing concern.
Lucas Torreira could return to the Europa League fold after illness, while first-leg goalscorer Alex Lacazette is expected to start. Defenders Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney and Cedric Soares are all injured.
Olympiakos left to rue missed chances
Olympiakos made a strong start to the first leg, but couldn't grab the opening goal that may have totally altered the complexion of the tie. It's been a campaign of near-misses. They dominated Spurs in Piraeus but only drew 2-2, and in North London they led 2-0 against Jose Mourinho's side before crumbling to a 4-2 defeat.
At least things are going well domestically for Pedro Martins' side. A 1-0 win at title rivals PAOK at the weekend took them five points clear at the top of the Super League, and they are still unbeaten in the league.
Influential defender Ruben Semedo is suspended because he has picked up too many bookings, while attacking midfielder Hillal Soudani is injured. Olympiacos don't quite look the same team without the speed of Daniel Podence in attack - he moved to Wolves in the winter window.
Gunners to book last-16 spot
Arsenal are improving under Arteta, and after drawing a heap of games they are suddenly turning those draws into wins. The attacking side of the game is clicking, and apart from the odd wobble from Luiz they seem to be looking more solid at the back too.
Olympiakos lost all three of their Champions League away matches in the group stage, and I think they'll suffer defeat here too. I'll back Arsenal -1.0 on the Asian Handicap at 1.90.
Goals likely if hosts cut loose
Olympiakos conceded nine goals across their three UCL away games, and leaked 16 goals across the whole group stage, which is a better guide than their domestic form. Without the imposing Semedo, there will be gaps for Arsenal to exploit. On that basis it's worth backing Over 2.5 Goals at 1.75, or an Arsenal/Over 1.5 Arsenal Goals double at 1.74 on the Sportsbook.
In terms of goalscorers, Lacazette was a constant menace in the first leg, and is trading at 10/11 to score at any time, while the in-form Pepe is 13/8.