Arsenal vs Benfica
Arsenal will head to the second leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie with Benfica holding a slight advantage after their 1-1 draw in Rome.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta described their decisive showdown with Benfica as his side’s “final,” so expect the Gunners to come out all guns blazing in Greece.
The Europa League 2021 betting odds have Arsenal favoured to go through, but with this match to be played on a neutral site once again, Benfica should still fancy their chances of scoring an upset.
Arsenal ready to play their ‘final’
Arsenal have a narrow advantage to hold onto in the second leg after Bukayo Saka scored an away goal to cancel out Pizzi’s penalty in the first leg. The Gunners remain unbeaten in the Europa League this season (six wins, one draw) and a goalless draw would be enough to see them through to the round of 16.
Arteta seemingly had one eye already on the second leg in their 1-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Manchester City over the weekend. Starting centre-backs David Luiz and Gabriel, as well as midfielders Dani Ceballos and Emile Smith Rowe, were all rested. The Gunners have now lost three of their last four league matches after that defeat.
Unfortunately, Thomas Partey — who has missed the last few matches with a thigh injury — is likely to remain out for the second leg, which will be a significant blow.
Meanwhile, Alexandre Lacazette has been out of favour lately; he has appeared in just one of their last three games. Arteta has instead opted to play Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front with Saka, Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard in support.
Saka played all 90 minutes against City, but he has surprisingly been Arsenal’s best player this season so it would be a massive shock if he does not start.
Aubameyang – who was expected to be the Gunners’ main man – has had a disappointing season thus far, but his form has picked up since the start of the year. He scored a terrific hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Leeds and also bagged a brace against Newcastle.
Benfica need top scorers to get a goal
Benfica were second-best for most of the first leg against Arsenal, and they should be reasonably pleased to come away with a 1-1 draw. They remain unbeaten in Europa League play this season, with three wins and four draws.
Like Arsenal, the second leg will be of massive importance for the Eagles, who need a strong Europa League run to salvage what has been a disastrous league campaign. Jorge Jesus’ side are down in fourth in the Portuguese Liga NOS, 15 points back of leaders Sporting.
Despite playing a relatively strong starting XI, they were held to a goalless draw by relegation-threatenedFarense over the weekend. The Eagles have now won just once in their last seven league matches (five draws, one loss).
Midfielder Pizzi has been creating plenty of Europa League 2021 highlights for Benfica this season; he’s currently the tournament’s leading scorer with seven goals. The 31-year-old was rested in the weekend and should be fresh for the second leg.
Meanwhile, Haris Seferovic — the team’s leading scorer this season with 12 goals – started against Farense, but Gian-Luca Waldschmidt started the first leg and could once again be preferred to play alongside Darwin Nunes up front.
Jesus tried to catch Arsenal by surprise by switching to a back-three in the first leg, and it did a reasonable job of keeping the Gunners’ attack silent. It remains to be seen whether he sticks to that formation or returns to his usual 4-4-2 as they try to get the goal they need to stay alive in the tournament.
Arsenal will be quite familiar with the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus. They played there in the first leg of last year’s Europa League round of 32 against Olympiacos, and they won 1-0 thanks to a late Lacazette winner.
However, the Gunners will be hoping history does not repeat itself in the second leg. That’s because they lost 1-0 to Olympiacos in full-time, which forced extra time. Aubameyang thought he’d given Arsenal the win, but the Gunners conceded in the very last minute as Olympiacos went through on away goals.
|Arsenal vs Benfica||1X2 Arsenal @ 1.85|
|February 26, 01:55 (GMT+8)|
SBOTOP odds have Arsenal installed as 1.91 favourites over Benfica, who are priced at 3.75 to win the second leg. Meanwhile, a draw is 3.25.
As the odds suggest, this should be another hard-fought leg, much like the first. But even though the Arsenal have been having their problems in the Premier League, Arteta should have them up for this big European tie. And with Saka, Smith Rowe, and Aubameyang, the Gunners have enough attacking weapons to overcome Benfica and move on to the round of 16.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:|
|= €20 (Highly confident)||= €10 (CONFIDENT)||= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)|
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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