Foot Predictions shows Thursday’s Europa League clash between Arsenal and Benfica, including hunches, preview and possible lineups.
Arsenal will try to leave behind missed opportunities in the first leg when they travel to Athens for their home game against Benfica in the last 32 of the Europa League.
The two teams drew 1-1 in the first leg in Rome, with Bukayo Saka canceling Pizzipenalty kick in the second half.
Pep Guardiola recently stated that his former protégé Mikel Arteta would make Arsenal a contender for the Premier League title. However, if your performance against Manchester City is a benchmark, it will be a long time before that happens.
The Gunners had their moments, but they never seemed to bother the fleeing leaders, who opened the scoring in the first 90 seconds Raheem Sterlingheadfirst and closed the door on Sunday afternoon in the Emirates, with Arsenal losing for the third time in four Premier League games.
Despite a promising opening for 2021, Arteta’s men have now won just one of their last six games in all competitions, although they could and probably should have taken advantage of Rome in the first leg last week, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang again guilty of leaving his shooting boots at home.
Arsenal’s perfect record in this season’s Europa League ended in the hands of a certain Benfica team, but effervescent Saka at least managed to score a vital “away” goal for his team after the tournament’s top scorer, Pizzi, opened the marker at 12 meters, and it will be interesting to see what approach Arteta will take for this match.
The Gunners would normally have a crowd of 60,000 emirates cheering for them in their home matches, but this tie will be played in an empty Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis due to coronavirus protocols, and Benfica will make a long journey with the intention of ruining the party of the Arsenal.
Benfica’s recent form is also unremarkable, as the Portuguese giants have won just three of their last 11 wins in all competitions and the dispute for the Premier League title is apparently out of the question.
Jorge jesusThe team’s men managed to reach the last six games without losing, but four of them ended up with shared spoils – including each of the last three – and drew goalless with the threatened relegation Farense at the weekend after the first leg with Arsenal.
Jesus’ move to a three-man central defense against the Gunners paid dividends at the Stadio Olimpico, but it was Arsenal’s wastage in front of the goal more than anything that gave Benfica a chance to fight to advance to the round of 16. Europa League final, which they last reached in the 2018-19 season.
With Thursday’s game being technically Benfica’s “away” game, the importance of scoring at least one goal for the English cannot be underestimated, but a Taca de Portugal victory over Estoril represents the only victory of the last six away games.
The Portuguese have only suffered defeat in three of their last 14 games in unfamiliar territory, but with the Europa League representing Arsenal’s best opportunity to return to the pinnacle of club football next season, Benfica’s rear should show an inspired performance for keep your silverware hopes alive.
Arsenal Europa League form: WWWWWD
Arsenal form (all competitions): DLLWDL
Benfica Europa League form: WDDWDD
Benfica form (all competitions): DWWDDD
All news from the teams
Arsenal is expected to be without the services of Thomas Partey again while Rob Holding will also be left out after suffering a concussion against Man City.
The Gunners’ chief said he would shuffle the package for this game as he did over the weekend, with two potential changes at the heart of the defense. David Luiz and Gabriel Magalhães return to Holding and Pablo Mari.
Dani Ceballos and Emile Smith Rowe should also return to the first XI on Thursday, but Alexandre Lacazette you may have to settle for a seat at the bank again.
Given the fact that Benfica only had to score in this match in order to hope to advance, it would be a surprise to see Jesus stick in the 3-5-2 of the first leg.
The 66 year old can therefore choose to deploy his most familiar 4-4-2 configuration with Darwin Nunez and Luca Waldschmidt leading the line but Jardel and Andre Almeida remain marginalized.
Julian Weigl was suspended for the tie with Farense, but is back here, while Pizzi will almost certainly return to the first XI as well.
Possible starting lineup for Arsenal:
Leno; Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Xhaka, Ceballos; Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Aubameyang
Possible initial line-up for Benfica:
Milk; Gilberto, Vertonghen, Otamendi, Grimaldo; Silva, Weigl, Pizzi, Everton; Nunez, Waldschmidt
Probability: Arsenal 1-0 Benfica
Arteta has undeniably improved Arsenal’s defensive stability since taking charge, and it was only a lack of concentration from Emile Smith Rowe that prevented them from triumphing in the first leg. The Gunners should have scored more than one goal in Rome, and they were able to draw some positive points from the loss to City, so we hope Arteta’s team will narrowly win and advance to the round of 16 at the expense of a disappointing defeat Benfica.
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