Olympiacos injuries no excuse for Valverde
Monday, 5 December 2011
Coach Ernesto Valverde admits Olympiacos FC have "serious injury problems" but refuses to allow them to affect his approach against an Arsenal FC side determined to stay unbeaten.
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Olympiacos FC may be counting the cost of injuries to key players but their coach Ernesto Valverde warned against his side allowing negative thoughts to dictate their mindset against "one of the best teams in Europe". Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger, meanwhile, insisted the young players he will deploy in the febrile atmosphere of the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on Tuesday "will be up for it".
• Olympiacos must win and hope Olympique de Marseille do not prevail against Borussia Dortmund. If Valverde's charges draw they might still advance depending on the result in Germany.
Coach Ernesto Valverde
Our injury problems are serious in midfield but we cannot think of this. We must think of the players who will be on the pitch. It will be difficult for us, I don't know which Arsenal players will be here but whoever plays must be good because we're talking about Arsenal. They're coming to win and they have their style of play, no matter who is on the pitch. They're one of the best teams in Europe and they're not coming here to let us win.
We will use defenders in midfield because we have no other options. We have to play well if we want to win, simple as that. We have to be fast, strong and composed or else we shouldn't expect to beat them. I'd love us to score early but even if we don't it doesn't matter as long as we win in the end. At Arsenal we were 2-0 down inside the first 20 minutes, so we must find our stride from the very first minute.
Our team deserves to go through to the next phase. But I'm sure all the other coaches feel the same way. We have to win and wait for Marseille's result. We must do our part but qualification is not up to us.
Saturday: Olympiacos 2-0 Panaitolikos GFS (Pantelić 62pen, Djebbour 74)
Megyeri; Torossidis, Marcano, Papadopoulos, Holebas; Potouridis (Orbaiz 46), Maniatis, Ibagaza (Fetfatzidis 41); Abdoun, Pantelić, Djebbour (Monje 76)
• Panaitolikos defender André Rocha was dismissed for a foul on Djamel Abdoun inside the area that allowed Marko Pantelić to score from the spot for the hosts and league leaders. Pantelić has now struck in 13 games since joining in summer 2010; Olympiacos have won all of them.
Ariel Ibagaza is out with a thigh strain picked up at the weekend, while Ljubomir Fejsa and Jean Makoun are unavailable with knee injuries and Olof Mellberg (groin) and Francisco Yeste (calf) have also been missing. Tassos Papazoglou (knee) is available again but Valverde was waiting until after the final training session to decide on the fitness of David Fuster and Pablo Orbaiz (both groin).
Manager Arsène Wenger
We want to continue our unbeaten run. We respect the competition and we want to be fair to everyone. Olympiacos have a chance of qualifying but we want to win tomorrow. Don't judge the players before we see how they do tomorrow. We will have a very strong team tomorrow and many played in the first match against Olympiacos. Give the players some credit. [Alex Oxlade-] Chamberlain will have a chance to show himself away from home.
Olympiacos have to beat us tomorrow if they are to have a chance to qualify. They got a good result against Dortmund and a massive result in Marseille. We both want to win tomorrow so it will be interesting to see what happens. Our young players will be motivated. It's true some of them have not played enough and they will be motivated to show they deserve to play. The team is motivated and absolutely up for it.
Saturday: Wigan Athletic FC 0-4 Arsenal (Arteta 28, Vermaelen 29, Gervinho 61, Van Persie 78)
Szczęsny; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, André Santos; Ramsey, Song (Arshavin 80), Arteta; Walcott (Benayoun 80), Van Persie, Gervinho (Coquelin 80)
• Arsenal eased to victory at Wigan to end a sequence of two games without a win in all competitions and stretch their unbeaten Premier League run to seven matches.
Jack Wilshere, (ankle) and Bacary Sagna (leg) are definitely out, while Kieran Gibbs (stomach), Carl Jenkinson (back), Abou Diaby (hamstring), Ryo Miyaichi (ankle) and Tomáš Rosický (thigh) have all been unavailable.
On 19 August 2006 Mellberg, then with Aston Villa FC, became the first player to score a competitive goal at Arsenal's new stadium. The game ended 1-1, one of only two points Mellberg picked up in 11 Premier League meetings with the Gunners.