Mikel Arteta's Arsenal face Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash on Thursday night. The match will be played in Rome due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The Portuguese outfit don't come into the tie in the greatest of form, sitting fourth in Liga NOS, 13 points behind bitter rivals Sporting CP who currently occupy top spot. Despite having a four match unbeaten run behind them, since mid-January Benfica have lost to Sporting and Braga and have drawn with Porto - the three teams above them in the league.
Arsenal also haven't had the smoothest of domestic seasons. The Gunners find themselves 10th in the Premier League after 24 matches and, last time out, managed their first win in four as they beat Leeds 4-2 at the Emirates. But the Gunners' Europa League campaign has been nothing short of outstanding, Arteta's side maintained a 100% record in Group B and finished with a goal difference of 15, scoring 20 and conceding five.
Here's 90min's preview of the game.
Where to watch on tv
When is it? Thursday 18 February
What time is kick off? 20:00
Where is it being played? Stadio Olimpico, Rome
TV channel? BT Sport 2
Referee? Cuneyt Cakir
Benfica will once again have to do without Andre Almeida and Gilberto, so Diogo Goncalves will have to carry on deputising at right back for the Portuguese side. There is good news, however, as joint-top scorer in the Europa League (6) Pizzi looks likely to make a return to the starting XI.
Former Premier League players Adel Taarabt, Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi will feature for Benfica and will no doubt relish the thought of facing the Gunners.
As for Arsenal, Nicolas Pepe is expected to return the starting lineup, having provided six goal contributions in the group stages of the competition. Matt Ryan is also likely to feature, as Arteta seems to favour his back up goalkeepers for Europa League fixtures.
Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney, however, will miss out on the game as they continue their recoveries from injury.
Benfica: Vlachodimos; Goncalves, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Grimaldo; Silva, Taarabt, Weigl, Pizzi; Seferovic, Nunez.
Arsenal: Ryan; Bellerin, Mari, Gabriel, Cedric; Xhaka, Ceballos; Saka, Smith Rowe, Pepe; Aubameyang.
Moreirense 1-1 Benfica - Liga NOS (14/2)
Estoril Praia 1-3 Benfica - Taca de Portugal (11/2)
Benfica 2-0 Famalicao - Liga NOS (8/2)
Benfica 0-0 Vitoria SC - Liga NOS (5/2)
Sporting CP 1-0 Benfica - Liga NOS (1/2)
Arsenal 4-2 Leeds - Premier League (14/2)
Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal - Premier League (6/2)
Wolves 2-1 Arsenal - Premier League (2/2)
Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United - Premier League (30/1)
Southampton 1-3 Arsenal -Premier League (26/1)
Benfica - Arsenal prediction
Arsenal, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang especially, will go into this tie full of confidence after their victory over Leeds. The Gabon striker scored his first Premier League hat-trick and looked at his clinical best throughout.
He can also rely on a wonderful creative unit behind him with Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe more than likely linking up to create chances, while Pepe has been deadly in the final third in the Europa League this campaign.
The biggest test for Arsenal will be containing the likes of Rafa Silva, Taarabt, Darwin Nunez and most of all Pizzi. The Portuguese side can create and score goals from anywhere, and the Gunners' full backs will have to be sharp in nullifying As Aguias' wide players.
Benfica also have the second best defence in Portugal, and boast proven Premier League pedigree in Otamendi and Vertonghen. However, despite a threat to Arsenal's back line, you'd expect Aubameyang and co to strut their stuff and lead the Gunners to a victory.
Prediction: Benfica 1-2 Arsenal
Source : 90min