The Europa League is Arteta’s saving grace: How Arsenal will line-up against Benfica

Arsenal are set to face Benfica in Rome for the first leg of the Europa League knock-out rounds tomorrow. Here’s how the Gunners could set-up to face the Portuguese side.

After a strong performance against Bielsa’s men on the weekend, Arteta now will change his focus to the Europa League where he will take on a strong Benfica team that currently sit fourth in the Primeira Liga.

When considering the match congestion at hand, with free-scoring Man City being the following game, Arteta must make sure his squad is strong enough to make it through the round of 32 tie as well as making use of substitutes to keep players fresh, so key names will be included in the starting XI.

After last years early knockout to Olympiacos, the Gunners boss will be looking to go further in the competition with hopes to secure a Champions League spot for next season.

Here is how the Gunners could line up:

Goalkeeper

When choosing the goalkeeper for Arsenal there can only be one man for the job, even with Mat Ryan’s performance against Villa, the shot stopper has never featured in a European competition so Bernd Leno will likely keep his place.

New signing Runar Alex Runarsson has been left out of the Europa League squad, so third choice keeper on the night will most likely be a youth prospect in Arthur Okonkwo.

Defence

The back four will probably be kept the same as the Leeds one with a potential swap of Luiz with Rob Holding. The Englishman has been a regular for Arsenal this season and with City on the weekend it makes sense for a slight swap.

Ideally, Tierney would be starting at left back but with his current injury issues he may not be available or even ready to start, so Cedric Soares will occupy the position in the meantime.

Gabriel had a strong performance against Leeds on Sunday suggesting he is currently the Gunners’ best centre back, with various POTM awards to back it. A common pairing of Holding and Gabriel is what fans should expect to see in Rome.

At right back there is not any other option besides Hector Bellerin, the Spaniard has come under criticism this season, however, he will look to continue his form after scoring a rare goal on the weekend.

Midfield

The midfield 3 of Odegaard, Xhaka and Ceballos worked very well for the time they played together, therefore it is unlikely Arteta will change the trio.

Thomas Partey has been confirmed that he will not make a return for the game with the Ghanaian struggling to regain fitness.

Elneny has been spoken about to make an appearance however the holding midfielder is yet to make a good case for why he should start other than the fact that rotation may be considered.

Attack

It is probably quite clear that the starting XI is almost identical to the one that faced Leeds; however, the forward areas offer more options with both Lacazette and Pepe not featuring at all so an inclusion of the pair could happen considering they have been playing well in recent games.

Pepe is probably the most likely player to feature as it is hard to drop Aubameyang who had a stellar performance against the Yorkshire side, scoring his first Premier League hattrick.

Another player that is un-droppable is Hale-end product, Bukayo Saka who has been consistently brilliant especially since he moved to the right-hand side.

With an attacking 3 of Smith-Rowe, Odegaard and Saka getting the best out of the Gabon international it is not likely Arteta will make a change.

If the line-up is untouched, early substitutions will be expected with Man City in mind. I confidently think Arsenal will get the business done in the first leg, predicting a 3-0 win.

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