Olympiakos 0-3 Arsenal: Giroud hat trick sends Gunners through

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Arsenal pulled off mission impossible in Athens on Wednesday, as the Gunners reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the 16th straight season with a 3-0 win over Olympiakos.

[ MORE: Who can Arsenal get in last 16?

Olivier Giroud was the hero as he netted his first Arsenal hat trick in a crucial game with one goal in the first half and two in the second, as the Gunners eliminated Olympiakos in the process as they knew before the game that they needed at least a 2-0 victory.

Arsene Wenger was a happy man as his side recovered superbly from losing their opening two Group F games and won three of their last four matches to clinch qualification to the knockout round.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Early on Arsenal weathered a storm and then pushed forward as Joel Campbell cut the ball back and Mathieu Flamini slipped as he hit the ball then his shot crashed against the crossbar and out. The ball was then half cleared and Nacho Monreal‘s crossed the ball back in but Olivier Giroud’s header was a tame on after

Arsenal worked their way into the game more and more and Ozil lobbed a great ball through to Giroud but the goalkeeper was forced into a stop. Moments later Giroud wasn’t to be denied as a beautiful pass from Ozil found Aaron Rasmey and his cross was met with a superb header by Giroud as he gave Arsenal the lead. 1-0 to the Gunners as their mission to sneak into the UCL last 16 was well and truly on.

After that goal Arsenal were caught in two minds about whether to go for the crucial second goal which would see them go through to the last 16, or sit back and protect their lead before launching a late onslaught. Ozil looked dangerous every time he got on the ball and almost played in Theo Walcott before the break but after 45 minutes the Gunners were 1-0 up and needed one more goal to advance at Olympiakos’ expense.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

In the second half Arsenal came flying out of the traps and were soon 2-0 up as Ozil lobbed the ball into Joel Campbell and his exquisite play set up Giroud who swept home. 2-0 to the Arsenal who were going through to the last 16.

Olympiakos went close to pulling a goal back right away as they piled in at a corner but Petr Cech saved fairly comfortably and then Walcott went close to making it 3-0 as Campbell’s cross found him at the back post but his volley was deflected just wide.

The home side needed just one goal and knew they would still qualify with a 2-1 defeat and Kostas Fortounis forced Cech into a magnificent diving save to keep Arsenal 2-0 up and Brown Ideye then couldn’t finish

Arsenal then won a penalty kick as Omar Elabdellaoui threw himself at the ball and the referee awarded a soft penalty for handball, which Giroud stepped up and scored to net his and Arsenal’s third goal, meaning Olympiakos needed to score three times in the final 24 minutes to make the UCL last 16 at Arsenal’s expense.

Late on Arsenal sat back and soaked up Olympiakos pressure as the Greek side needed didn’t get anywhere near scoring once, let alone three times, and Wenger’s men had pulled off a miraculous escape to make the knockout rounds.

Season restart preview: Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton season restart
Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Brighton is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Seagulls when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: If there’s a team whose results don’t show the way they’ve played, it’s Brighton. Graham Potter’s Seagulls have the sixth-best possession percentage in the league, are a tidy seventh in passing, and are mid-table in tackles per game, interceptions per game, and shots per game.

[ MORE: Ranking every Brighton player in 2019-20 ]

The expected goals stats show even less reward for good work, with Brighton scoring 8.35 goals less than expected in open play and 4.38 less from corner kicks.

Despite all these good things, Brighton is two points clear of the drop zone with nine matches to play and has a terribly challenging schedule especially at the Amex Stadium.


Tactical analysis: Graham Potter has put the Seagulls in myriad formations this season, though he’s been utilizing at least four at the back since the calendar turned to 2020. He’s ready to attack but pragmatic given the club’s hopes of staving off the teams below it in the fight for PL survival.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Brighton’s chances ]


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Ryan —–

— Montoya — Webster — Dunk — Burn —

—– Propper —– Mooy —–

— Trossard — Gross — Alzate —

—– Maupay—–

Glenn Murray and Alireza Jahanbakhsh are excellent weapons to have on the bench, and Brighton’s also got a very good center back in reserve in the form of Shame Duffy and an underrated center mid in Dale Stephens who will see playing time, too. On paper, this team is too good to go down.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle
Away: Leicester, Norwich, Southampton, Burnley

Predicted finish: They’ll do enough to get by, though that home fixture list is simply brutal. Safe before the final weekend.

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.

 

Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

Premier League return
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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.