Arsenal face Benfica on Thursday evening in the second leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie. The match will be played at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The Gunners go into the tie with the upper hand, having managed to score an away goal in the first leg as Bukayo Saka equalised in a less than thrilling 1-1 draw.
However, they don’t take great domestic form into Thursday night’s match, losing to Manchester City 1-0 at home last time out. Although not a terrible result, it means the Gunners have won just once in five previous Premier League games and sit 11th in the table.
Their Portuguese opponents sit in a similar boat, most recently drawing 0-0 with Farense to make it one win in five in Liga NOS. Benfica sit fourth in the table, four points off Braga in third and a whopping 15 behind city rivals Sporting CP at the top of the table.
Jorge Jesus’ side are by no means easy opponents, having shown a dogged and resilient style as well as attacking ability against Arsenal last Thursday.
To progress to the last 16, here’s the side that should start for Arsenal against Benfica.
Bernd Leno (GK) – The German is comfortably Arsenal’s number one and will need to be on guard from the outset.
Hector Bellerin (RB) – Has started the last eight games for Arteta’s side and could influence the game going forward.
David Luiz (CB) – The Brazilian came on for the last ten minutes against City to replace the concussed Rob Holding and will likely start the game against his old club.
Gabriel (CB) – Didn’t feature on Sunday, but the 23-year-old is expected to come back into the fold as Arteta seems likely to make a few changes.
Kieran Tierney (LB) – Managed to last 90 minutes against City at the weekend and was tireless on the left flank. Could be a key component for the Gunners as they look to exploit space going forward.
Dani Ceballos (CM) – Had a fantastic game against Benfica in the first leg, showing great command defensively while always looking forward with the ball. Could be of great importance to the Gunners in what should be an open game.
Granit Xhaka (CM) – The 28-year-old is a stalwart in the Arsenal side nowadays and will look to provide defensive solidity in front of his back line against a threatening Benfica side.
Martin Odegaard (AM) – Has shown real glimpses of his creative pedigree of late and should start this one, having been crucial to the equaliser against the Portuguese side in the first leg.
Bukayo Saka (RW) – The 19-year-old is becoming a hugely influential part of the Arsenal team and, having grabbed the equaliser last time out against Benfica, is certain to feature once again.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – Looked off the pace in the first leg but the striker will be looking to get back among the goals, having gone two matches without one since his hat-trick against Leeds.
Emile Smith Rowe (LW) – Benfica really struggled to keep tabs on the youngster last time out, as he drifted into pockets of space well. Despite giving away the penalty last week, he had a good game and should start on Thursday evening.