A one goal victory would be enough for the Gunners, but only if they score at least four times, which seems somewhat fanciful. All of these permutations are due to Olympiakos’ 3-2 win at the Emirates Stadium at the end of September, a result that Arsenal will lack back on with a huge sense of ruefulness should they fail here. The odds are stacked against them, but if they can get an early goal it would set home nerves jangling and make the encounter altogether more intense.
The loss of so many key players to injury over recent weeks has only served to make this assignment a whole lot tougher, with manager Arsene Wenger unable to call upon the services of Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin and Alexis Sanchez among others. As a result, this could turn out to be a very big night for Joel Campbell, who has been given his opportunity in the Arsenal first-team and here can help the club overcome the odds at the expense of the side with whom he spent the 2013-14 season on loan.
The Costa Rica forward was on target on Saturday at home to Sunderland as they picked up their first Premier League win in four games to move up to second. Despite the eventual 3-1 scoreline, it was never a comfortable afternoon at any stage and they had to survive a couple of very near misses, but the North London side were perhaps due a little good fortune, with Olivier Giroud recovering from scoring an own goal to make it 2-1 and Aaron Ramsey proving influential on his return to the starting XI.
That defeat to Olympiakos on match day two was simply down to careless mistakes and naivety as they twice fell behind again after equalling just seconds before, so a faultless performance is needed here. Even with numerous players out, Arsenal are a better team than their opponents, but it just boils down to whether they can handle the pressure as well as an intimidating atmosphere created from the stands.
The hosts know that there is a margin for error as far as they are concerned, but will also be tense coming into this having become quite used to narrowly missing out on the last 16 in previous seasons. They always seem to be involved in a close battle to make it through, and if they were to capitulate here it would cause considerable anguish. However, for Arsenal the thought of Europa League football does not bear thinking about either.