Arsenal face herculean task

Gunners take on confident Olympiakos; Chelsea host Porto in tricky game

Arsenal face herculean task
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 on Wednesday.

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 shock 3-2 defeat 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," the French coach told reporters. "I was very nervous because I knew it was a very important game for our season.

"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.

The 38-year-old has led the Greeks to 12 successive Super League victories since the season kicked off as they chase a host of club records.

Silva has also won widespread praise for the European performances. Greece midfielder Kostas Fortounis, one of the outstanding players for Olympiakos this season, is relishing the game with Arsenal.

"This is a showdown, no doubt about it, out of which only one team can claim qualification to the next stage," he said after the 4-3 win at Panthrakikos at the weekend, a result that gave them a 10-point lead at the top of the Super League.

Olympiakos are relatively injury-free but Silva must decide whether to include fit-again Argentine 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.

Pressure on Mourinho
Jose Mourinho's job could be on the line when Chelsea host Porto on Wednesday and Alex Ferguson has urged the Londoners not to jettison their manager even if the result goes against them.

Woefully out-of-form Chelsea have already lost 11 matches in all competitions this season but need only a draw against Porto to qualify for the knockout stages.

Former Manchester United great Ferguson said Russian owner Roman Abramovich must ignore the criticism the club are receiving and keep faith in Mourinho.

"He has sacked so many coaches in the last 10 years that I am sure he has learned by it," Ferguson was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.

Defeat on Wednesday and a consequent drop into the Europa League for Chelsea would certainly test Abramovich's patience. After a 1-0 home defeat by promoted Bournemouth on Saturday, Mourinho said for the first time that finishing in the top four of the Premier League to qualify for next season's Champions League was looking unlikely.

Chelsea, who are 14th in the Premier League with only four wins from 15 matches, are likely to have captain John Terry back after injury. With Dynamo Kiev expected to win at home to Maccabi Tel Aviv, who have lost all five group matches so far, a draw for Porto would eliminate the Portuguese side unless the Ukrainians fail to win.

It was at Porto that Mourinho made his reputation, winning the 2003 UEFA Cup and the 2004 Champions League. Although the Chelsea fans have remained supportive, the stadium is likely to be tense, at least until their team make a breakthrough.

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