For five consecutive seasons Arsenal have hit a Champions League brick wall at the first knockout stage, but even that buffer zone may be beyond the Gunners if they don’t beat familiar foes Olympiakos early in the 2015/16 edition.
With the potentially point-less gauntlet of home and away matches against Bayern Munich to run following Tuesday night’s pivotal Group F encounter, entering gameweek five with less than three points on the board would be terminal.
When pitted against Pep Guardiola’s Bayern in the round of 16 two seasons ago, Arsene Wenger’s men could not recover from a 2-0 defeat in London, as the German powerhouses progressed 3-1 on aggregate.
Back to the present and seven from seven in the Bundesliga, the Robert Lewandowski-inspired Bavarians took no mercy on Olympiacos in Piraeus one matchday one, setting the Group F agenda by stuffing the Greek champions 3-0.
Only Basel managed to scramble into the last 16 with as few as seven points last season, which puts the damaging effects of Arsenal’s 2-1 loss at Dinamo Zagreb into perspective.
Victory against Olympiakos, rated at 21/50 at bwin.com, is paramount at the Emirates, especially with the recent history of defeats on the road at the home of the perennial group-stage inhabitants.
This is the fourth time in seven seasons the clubs will do battle in the first phase of the tournament and the Gunners have tasted defeat on all three visits to the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
It could be about time for some positives though. The counter balance to this grim picture is Arsenal’s 100 % record of winning their Emirates clashes against Olympiakos during that run.
Two seasons ago, Aaron Ramsey was on the scoresheet in a convincing 3-1 triumph, while it is 7-2 on aggregate to the Premier League outfit.
Arsenal’s recent form also bodes particularly well for this midweek outing. They boast successive cup and league wins – against arch enemies Tottenham on the road and previously unbeaten Leicester, also on their travels.
More pertinently still, the return to scoring ways for hat-trick hero Alexis Sanchez could be a huge factor for the English side, after the livewire Chilean banged in three group-stage goals during his debut Arsenal campaign.
Given his King Power Stadium heroics Sanchez will be a popular first goalscorer pick at 7/2 with bwin.