Arsenal have been drawn against Olympiacos in the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League.
The Gunners scraped through in dramatic fashion after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 87th-minute goal saw them progress against Benfica – setting up a reunion with their conquerors in last year’s competition.
Last season, the Greeks eliminated Arsenal in the round of 32 after Youssef El-Arabi’s extra-time winner and as the two sides prepare to meet again, Arsenal will be hoping to put their ghosts from last February to rest.
Ironically, the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, the home of Olympiacos, was the ground on which the Gunners defeated Benfica after the second leg was switched to Greece due to coronavirus restrictions.
The two sides have met 10 times in 12 years, both having claimed five victories a piece. The 45-time Greek champions defeated PSV Eindhoven 5-4 on aggregate in the last round and are undoubtedly a dangerous opponent.
However, as much as the events of last season may still haunt the Gunners, the draw certainly could have been a lot tougher. Mikel Arteta’s side avoided their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Serie A giants AC Milan and AS Roma.
If they’re to progress past Pedro Martins’ men, Arsenal could still face a showdown with their former boss Unai Emery whose Villarreal side have been drawn against Dynamo Kyiv.
The two fixtures will take place on the 11th and 18th of March, either side of the north London derby scheduled to take place at the Emirates Stadium – which is far from ideal.
Add the fact Sokratis Papastothopoulos, who recently left Arsenal to return to his native Greece and signed for Olympiacos, could be lining up against his former side, the game has another interesting side-story that could backfire on the Gunners.
Following Thursday night’s win, Arteta claimed in his press conference that the result kept Arsenal’s season alive, with the Gunners currently 11 points off of the top four and out of both domestic cups. As such, the Europa League represents the only realistic route via which the club can achieve Champions League qualification and win silverware this season.
On paper, the draw could have been much worse and in truth, it’s impossible to know how much of a bearing last season’s events will have this time around. But at least the tie represents an opportunity for Arsenal to get their revenge and put that disappointment behind them, though they face a dangerous opponent whom they know all too well.