Mesut Oezil key player in Arsenal's must-win game, says Gary Lim
In-form Oezil holds the key to a European miracle for the Gunners
OLYMPIAKOS v ARSENAL
(Tomorrow, 3.40am, Singtel TV Ch 111 & StarHub TV Ch 203)
At the Karaiskakis Stadium, Mesut Oezil will be the one charged to unlock the hosts' defence and steer his side through what is a dire situation.
Arsenal are staring down the barrel of a gun.
They must defeat Olympiakos tomorrow morning (Singapore time), and do so convincingly.
A two-goal victory margin or more will carry them past the group stage of the Champions League for the 16th consecutive season.
A 3-2 win (which will see them go through on overall goal difference) or anything higher-scoring than that will also prolong their campaign.
Ordinarily, with the array of attacking talent in the squad, one would expect Arsenal to achieve the desired result.
But Arsene Wenger has to pull off the feat with a group ravaged by injuries to key personnel.
He doesn't have Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, among others.
He does have Oezil, though.
The 27-year-old Germany international needs to push and probe, prod and create, and help the team get the goals for the win.
He will surely attract much attention. His legs have been heavy of late, but rest is a luxury Arsenal cannot afford right now.
Wenger will hope that pressure can help Oezil forget the fatigue.
Oezil is playing his best football since he moved to London from Madrid in 2013.
When the Gunners beat Sunderland 3-1 on Saturday, the attacking wizard set up Joel Campbell for the opening goal to claim his 12th Premiership assist this season.
No one in Europe's top five leagues have mustered more than eight.
In England's top tier, the chasing pack are all tied at six - Manchester City's David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne, Everton's Gerard Deulofeu and Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez.
Oezil seems to be in the mood.
He splits backlines open with instinctive, precise passes.
He plots his moves a few steps ahead of his opponents.
He is thriving under the spotlight.
This is "the strongest season I have ever played", he said.
To take down Olympiakos, who beat Arsenal 3-2 at the Emirates Stadium in September, will require a complete performance by Wenger's team.
Olympiakos may not rank as European powerhouses but their domestic form has been nothing short of majestic.
Twelve wins in 12 league games - a national record for best start to a season - have seen them open up a 10-point lead at the top of the Greek Super League.
To stand a chance, Wenger must cajole another 90 minutes of brilliance out of his creative ace.
The feisty Olivier Giroud is a dependable striker who can trouble the Olympiakos defence.
Aaron Ramsey is a reassuring presence in midfield to ensure the visitors control the most important area of the field.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with his flair on the wing and ability to pose a direct goal threat as well, is another useful weapon.
Petr Cech has fought enough battles in his career to know what is required of him in goal.
But Oezil pulls the strings that coordinate the team's charge forward.
Arsenal have hope, because they still have Oezil.
WHAT ARSENAL MUST DO
It’s a straight fight between Olympiakos and Arsenal for the other last-16 slot in Group F. The Greek side need only a draw. Arsenal, who lost 3-2 at home in their earlier encounter, can qualify only with a victory, apart from 1-0 and 2-1 scorelines.
BY THE NUMBERS
Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League knockout stages for the past 15 seasons.
Arsenal's Mesut OeziL has 12 assists in this season's Premiership, the highest among Europe's top five leagues.
Olympiakos' 4-3 win over Panthrakikos on Saturday was their 12th in as many league games, setting a national record for consecutive wins from the start of the season.
Olympiakos have four players with EPL experience: They are Pajtim Kasami (Fulham 2011-14), Esteban Cambiasso (Leicester City 2014/15), Ideye Brown (WBA 2014/15) and Manuel da Costa (West Ham 2009-11).
Gunners' proud record under threat
Arsenal will put one of the best Champions League records on the line when they face Olympiakos Piraeus in a showdown for second spot in Group F tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
As well as competing in the tournament for the 18th season in a row, the London club have qualified for the second stage in each of the past 15 campaigns.
That run is in jeopardy, not so much due to a 5-1 hammering at group winners Bayern Munich, but because Arsenal were beaten in their opening two games, including a 3-2 loss at home to Olympiakos.
Now they must reverse that scoreline or improve on it to preserve their proud record under Arsene Wenger, who will be missing seven players, including Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere.
Wenger was particularly pleased with Saturday's 3-1 win at home to Sunderland, a victory that lifted Arsenal to second place in the Premier League.
"For our confidence, it was vital," said the Frenchman. "I was very nervous because I knew it was a very important game for our season.
"It is better to prepare for the (Olympiakos) game knowing we have won. The one positive thing is we know exactly what to do.
"Most of the time when we have been to Olympiakos, we have not had a lot to do because we had already qualified. This time, it is the opposite," added Wenger.
It is Arsenal's fourth visit in seven seasons and, each time, the game has come on Matchday Six.
For Olympiakos, the match is being billed by local media as a defining moment in a breakthrough year for Portuguese coach Marco Silva (above), who has led them to a record 12 successive Super League wins since the start of the season, as they chase other records.
He has a largely fit squad available, but must decide whether to include fit-again midfielder Esteban Cambiasso in place of Luka Milivojevic or Pajtim Kasami.
Brown Ideye, who spent last season at West Bromwich Albion, will come back into the attack after being rested at the weekend.
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