Arsenal FC's Arsène Wenger says a "robust" Olympiacos FC will be a real test as he renews acquaintances with Zico, who presides over his first Group H game in charge of the Greek champions.
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Much water has passed under the bridge since Arsène Wenger and Zico first came up against each other when coaching in Japan. With Arsenal FC and Olympiacos FC getting off to winning starts in this season's UEFA Champions League, the two coaches meet again both aiming to take control of Group H. Wenger's side battled back from 2-0 down to kick off their campaign with a 3-2 win at R. Standard de Liège, while Zico watched on from the stands as Olympiacos defeated AZ Alkmaar 1-0 on the day he was appointed coach of the Greek champions.
Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager
Olympiacos are a team that have to be respected. They have good experience of the Champions League. They played in it for ten consecutive years so they have good inside knowledge of what it is all about. They are a more robust team than you would perhaps expect of a side from Greece. They have good height and a strong presence in the penalty area. I know Zico because when I was in Japan, he was there as well. After that he was the manager of the Japanese national team and took them to the 2006 World Cup, and I still had strong links with the Japanese game. [Goalkeeper] Vito Mannone will start again tomorrow. He had a lot of attention [after the 1-0 win v Fulham FC on Saturday]. His confidence is higher now, but of course so are the expectations of him.
Zico, Olympiacos coach
I have joined a club where the supporters are used not only to winning, but winning well. With the quality of players I have here, I'm sure we can do that. We know of the difficulties we face playing against Arsenal – especially in their stadium. But we'll do all we can to get a good result. We cannot be fearful, we must be brave. Our confidence is good and I will field the same team as in the last game [against Panionios GSS]. We are eleven players against eleven and we have to believe that we are their equal. I remember Arsène Wenger very well from our time in Japan. I like the way his teams play, with an offensive mentality – it is a philosophy I share. I think he gets the best out of the players he has, and this is the key to his success. Arsenal have many players I admire – such as Fàbregas, Van Persie and Eduardo. I'm very happy that Eduardo is back from his injury – he spent three weeks recovering at my academy in Brazil. But of course I hope he won't score a goal against us!
26/09/09 Fulham FC0-1 Arsenal
(Van Persie 52)
• Arsenal recorded a fourth successive win in all competitions with victory at Craven Cottage.
26/09/09 Olympiacos 1-0 Panionios GSS
• The Greek champions have won four successive matches since the dismissal of coach Temuri Ketsbaia on 15 September and have conceded just two goals in ten competitive fixtures this term.
Out: Manuel Almunia (virus), Nicklas Bendtner (minor car accident), Denilson (back), Johan Djourou (knee), Łukasz Fabiański (knee), Samir Nasri (broken leg), Theo Walcott (back strain)
Misses next match if booked: none
Out: Aristidis Soiledis (groin), Enzo Maresca (thigh), Matt Derbyshire (groin), Luciano Galletti
Misses next match if booked: none
• Olympiacos have lost all eight away games against English opposition, conceding 27 goals and scoring just once.
• Arsenal's 3-1 defeat by Manchester United FC in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final last season was the first time the Gunners had lost at home in 24 matches in the competition proper.
Did you know?
On the opening day of the 2006/07 campaign, Olof Mellberg, then with Aston Villa FC, had the distinction of becoming the first player to score a competitive goal at Arsenal's new stadium.