Benfica vs Arsenal prediction: How will Europa League fixture play out tonight?
Arsenal battle Benfica in what promises to be an entertaining contest in the Europa League round of 32 with the first leg of this tie bizarrely taking place in Rome due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Travel restrictions also mean that the Gunners will be ‘hosting’ the Portuguese giants in the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, Greece – the home of Olympiacos – for the second leg next week.
Arsenal pose plenty of threat to Benfica and will be eager to at least strike to secure an away goal, with their recent victory over Leeds and the return to form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang providing encouragement here.
Benfica were beaten to top spot in the group stages by Rangers, but this competition is likely to attract most of their attention for the remainder of the season, given they are currently way off the pace in the title race in the Primeira Liga, sitting fourth with a daunting 13 points separating themselves and leaders Sporting Lisbon.
READ MORE: Premier League fixtures and table — all matches by date and kick-off time
Mikel Arteta is likely to be thinking along the same lines as Jorge Jesus, with Arsenal currently sitting 10th in the Premier League table and he will be determined to avoid repeating last year’s humiliating last-32 exit to Olympiacos.
In three previous games between these two sides, Arsenal have won two, while Benfica have won one, and it is likely to be a tight contest.
Independent Football Newsletter
Get the latest football headlines direct to your inbox twice a week
Read our full mailing list consent terms here
READ MORE: Arsenal speaking to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after tattoo video surfaces
Here’s everything you need to know about the game:
When is the match?
The game kicks off at 8pm on Thursday 18 February.
Where can I watch it?
The match will be shown live on BT Sport 2HD on TV. The match is also available to live stream on the BT Sport app.
What is the team news?
Benfica will need to solve their predicament at right back as both Andre Almeida and Gilberto are ruled out with injuries for Benfica, so Diogo Goncalves will continue to fill-in at defence.
Ex-Premier League players Jan Vertonghen, Nicolas Otamendi and Adel Taarabt will renew their hostilities with Arsenal as part of Benfica’s starting XI.
READ MORE: Mikel Arteta praises Arsenal’s ‘big piece of our puzzle’ Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
With the Gunners relying on the Europa League for a trophy this season, Arteta will put out his strongest team for this tie.
However, Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney will not be fit for this match.
Nicolas Pepe is key for Arsenal, having scored three times and provided three assists in the group stage.
Given that Benfica are without their best two right-backs, they will have to do a lot to keep Arsenal at bay, with Pepe and a rejuvenated Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang certainly featuring in Arteta’s starting line-up.
Predicted line ups
Benfica: Leite, Goncalves, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo, Silva, Taarabt, Weigl, Everton, Nunez, Seferovic.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Cedric, Xhaka, Ceballos, Saka, Smith Rowe, Pepe, Aubameyang.
Benfica – 17/10
Draw – 13/5
Arsenal – 27/20
The Gunners are playing some slick stuff right now and their speed and combination play in the final third will be a problem for the veteran defenders Otamendi and Vertonghen, so we’ll lean towards Arteta’s men getting a narrow victory to take a big step towards qualification in the tie. Benfica 1-2 Arsenal.
Source: Read Full Article