Arsenal vs Olympiakos: Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla set to miss Champions League decider

Jack Pitt-Brooke
Tuesday 01 December 2015 00:55
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Arsenal expect to be without Alexis Sanchez for their vital Champions League game at Olympiakos next week, with Santi Cazorla also a serious doubt for the must-win match.

Sanchez limped out of Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at Norwich City on Sunday with a hamstring injury. He will be assessed this week, and while the full prognosis will be clear tomorrow or Thursday, even a minor hamstring strain would entail an absence of three or four weeks for the Chilean forward, ruling him out of the Christmas games.

Cazorla was kicked on the knee by Gary O’Neil, leading Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger to describe him as playing “on one leg” in the second half at Carrow Road. The extent of the Spanish midfielder’s injury is still unclear but the club rate him as unlikely to make the trip to Greece next week, depriving Arsenal of the brains of their side.

Arsenal go to Athens needing to win by two goals, or by a high-scoring one-goal margin, if they are to progress to the Champions League last-16. Before then, they host Sunderland at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon, hoping for their first Premier League win in four games.

There was better news about French centre-back Laurent Koscielny, who was substituted early on in Sunday’s game with a hip problem. Arsenal expect Koscielny to return to training later this week, putting him in contention for the Sunderland game and then the trip to Greece.

The injuries to Cazorla and Sanchez mean that Arsenal go into the most important month of their season so far without much of their attacking firepower. Theo Walcott is on his way back from injury and the club hope that he will be ready for Olympiakos on 9 December, or even for Sunderland at the weekend.

Aaron Ramsey returned this week, playing 72 minutes on Sunday, after one month out with another hamstring injury. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Ramsey at Carrow Road, also after one month out, and should move swiftly into first-team contention.

Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck are still long-term absentees, along with midfielders Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin. After the crucial trip to Greece, Arsenal travel to Aston Villa, before hosting Manchester City on 21 December and going to Southampton on Boxing Day.

Meanwhile, Lewis Grabban, Norwich’s goalscorer against Arsenal, is targeting a run in the side. He had been out of the picture after he was suspended in August for refusing to be a substitute in a Capital One Cup tie at Rotherham.

“Every player wants to stay in the team and scoring gives me a bigger chance to do that,” Grabban said. “The manager has been fine so I’ve just been working hard to get back into the team. Hopefully I can now move forward and the team can look forward to the next game."

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