The Gunners are looking to get back to their winning ways starting with this one, but unfortunately, it would be played in a neutral ground in Greece, due to Covid-19 protocols. The first leg ended in a 1-1 stalemate in Rome, with Bukayo Saka canceling out Pizzi’s penalty to give the Gunners an away goal advantage. All Mikel Arteta’s men need from this encounter is a draw but certainly, they would go all out for the win, having in mind their surprising exit at this same stage of the competition last season when they lost to Greek opposition, Olympiacos back in their home ground at the Emirates stadium.
Arsenal, fresh from the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Manchester City last weekend, would be hoping to progress into the last 16 of this competition as it stands as one of their likely roots back into the Champions League.
Benfica on their own part are also having a poor run of form too, drawing with struggling side Feirense, in the Portuguese league, making it 4 draws in their last 5 matches in all competitions and put a dent in their title aspirations.
The Gunners will be hoping to have Marquee signing Thomas Partey back from injury but that would depend on if he passes his late fitness test. Should he be unavailable, Dani Ceballos should partner Granit Xhaka in midfield. David Luiz and Gabriel should get the nod in defense after Rob Holding suffered a collision in the game against Manchester City at the weekend. Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney should also return to the starting Line up.
ARSENAL: Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka, Ceballos, Smith Rowe, Saka, Odegaard, Aubameyang
The Portuguese side knows the task ahead of them, hence they would be looking to attack the Gunners in other to progress to the next round. Jorge Jesus would possibly not stick to the defensive formation he used in the first leg, he would probably go with his 4-4-2 attacking formation, with Darwin Nunez and Luca Waldschmidt leading the line. Julian Weigl would be back for this clash after being suspended at the weekend against Farense, while Pizzi should also return to the team after being tested at the weekend.
POSSIBLE LINEUP: Leite, Gilberto, Vertonghen, Otamendi, Grimaldo, Silva, Weigl, Pizzi, Everton, Nunez, Waldschmidt.
DID YOU KNOW?
*Arsenal have won twice in Greece, in the champions league against Olympiacos and also in last season’s Europa League round of 16 first leg against the same opponents.
*Arsenal had a perfect winning record in this season’s Europa League matches until their first leg 1-1 draw with Benfica.
*Arsenal have won 1 out of their last 6 matches in all competitions while Benfica have won 2 out of their last 6 matches in all competitions.
With what is at stake, the Gunners only need a draw to secure qualification into the next round and with the daunting memories of last season’s exit at this same stage last season, the Gunners would be looking to kill this game off!
Arsenal 2–0 Benfica
Match Preview by Patrick Alexander