Arsenal will want to avoid an early exit from this seasons UEFA Europa League and will aim to progress to the round of 16. Despite the still early stages of the competition, Benfica provide tough opposition that have will not doubt test The Gunners mental capacity.
Previous Leg recap:
Mikel Arteta’s side go into this game with the first leg having been an underwhelming 1-1 draw. Due to the away goal rule however, Arsenal do take an away goal advantage into this tie and will hope to capitalise upon this result.
The previous time that the two sides met for the first leg summed up a poor performance by Arsenal’s attackers. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed multiple golden opportunities to increase his sides lead however, the striker misplaced all of his shots. Arsenal went 1-0 down early on in the second half due to a penalty conceded by youngster Emile Smith-Rowe. Arteta would have been pleased to see his side’s instant reaction when they equalised with an exquisite team moved finished off by Bukayo Saka.
Throughout the remainder of the game, chances game Arsenal’s way but their attackers simply could not put their chances away. Saka warned his Arsenal teammates that they simply cannot make any mistakes ahead of this game and that it is crucial for them to proceed past the round of 32.
“It’s about managing the game, last year when we went out to Olympiacos we conceded a silly goal. We can’t put a foot wrong because if we do, we will make it difficult for ourselves.”
Arsenal provided a team news update on Wednesday and the latest updates on the fitness of Thomas Parteyand Rob Holding ahead of the game.
Partey had been struggling with a hamstring injury for a while that had kept the 28Y/O Ghanaian midfielder out of the side. When questioned upon Partey’s fitness, Mikel Arteta responded by saying:
“Thomas is very close; he has a final test in training today (Wednesday) if he is feeling good then he will be available for the match.” (Arsenal.com)
Rob Holding suffered a concussion injury in the dying moments of Sunday’s game vs Manchester City. Arteta confirmed this by saying that Holding is now “Completely fine but obviously now we need to follow the protocols and he won’t be able to travel.” (Arsenal.com)
Kieran Tierney has now recovered from his leg injury and is a major boost for The Gunners after completing 90 minutes against Manchester City on Sunday. The Scotsman is a welcome option to Arteta’s side with the Scot likely replacing Cedric in the left-back role. Tierney bolsters Arsenal’s attack with Bombing runs and overlaps down the left-hand side causing all kinds of issues for defenders.
Predicted Arsenal line up:
Leno; Bellerin, Gabriel, Luiz, Tierney, Xhaka, Partey, Saka, Odegard, Smith-Rowe, Aubameyang.
Leite; Verissimo, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldi, Taarabt, Weigl, Pizzi, Goncalves, Nunez, Waldschmidt.
Ones to watch:
Thomas Partey will hopefully be part of the travelling squad to face Benfica as the midfielder returns from his injury which has sidelined the midfielder for the past two weeks. When partnered up with Granit Xhakain The Gunners midfield, The Ghanaian gives the midfield a whole new look. Partey enjoys dominating the ball and is very dynamic with his passing and powerful runs. Thomas is a comfortable ball carrier and helps his team progress up the field. If Thomas features vs Benfica, then Arsenal will feel they have a very strong chance of qualifying for the round of 16.
Arsenal fans will hope that youngster Gabriel Martinelli can play a part in this game from the start as, the Brazilian has suffered with a lack of game time over recent months since coming back from injury. Martinelli could press Benfica’s backline into making mistakes and, make himself available for balls in behind where he will utilise his pace and finishing ability. In previous UEL games, Martinelli has combined superbly with teammate Kieran Tierney and the duo have put each other in dangerous positions to fire past previous opponents.
How to watch:
Due to current restrictions in the coronavirus pandemic and issues with travel for both teams, both legs of this game will be played behind closed doors at neutral venues. This game will however be available for fans to watch live on BT Sport with kick off set for 17:55.