Smith Rowe and Ceballos start, Predicted Arsenal line-up (4-2-3-1) vs Benfica – originally posted on Sportslens.com
Arsenal will play hosts to Benfica in the second leg of the Europa League last 32 on Thursday night.
The game is scheduled to be played at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece due to coronavirus restrictions.
The north London side have a disappointing record at the ground with four defeats and just one win from five European games.
However, their sole victory came during the previous campaign against Olympiacos and they will be aiming for another positive result.
Mikel Arteta’s side have the precious away goal advantage after the 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg which was played at the Stadio Olimpico.
Bernd Leno is an automatic choice in goal for the Gunners. The German had a comfortable game in the reverse leg until the penalty scored by Benfica which came against the run of play.
Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are likely to retain their places at full-back, but there will be an enforced change in the heart of the defence with Rob Holding out due to concussion protocols.
Pablo Mari earned a rare start in the 1-0 league defeat to Manchester City last weekend but he may drop to the bench for this game. David Luiz and Gabriel Magalhaes, who started the first leg together, should feature in central defence.
In the pre-match press conference, Arteta revealed that Thomas Partey’s involvement against Benfica may depend on a late fitness test. Regardless of this, he may not feature in the starting line-up and may only make a cameo appearance.
In that case, Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka should slot in the central midfield positions ahead of Mohamed Elneny, who was handed his first league start since December in the defeat to the Cityzens.
Martin Odegaard has shown glimpses of his quality but has yet to make any significant impact. Arteta may go for a straight swap with Emile Smith Rowe starting ahead of the Norwegian in the number 10 role.
Elsewhere, Bukayo Saka is one of the undisputed starters and is expected to continue on the right wing. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been leading the line lately, but he may step into the left wing role.
While the club-captain has the pace to test the opposition on the counter-attack, he is not the best when it comes to hold up play. This may see Alexandre Lacazette start up front for the first time in four matches.
Predicted Arsenal Line-up (4-2-3-1): Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, David Luiz, Gabriel Magalhaes, Kieran Tierney; Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos; Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Alexandre Lacazette.