Arsenal v Benfica: Pick your lineup to beat Benfica
This evening we face Benfica in the first leg of the Europa League round of 32. Based on how the league has gone so far this season, all of a sudden it is a game that becomes one of the most important of our season. Failure to finish in the top 4, which looks increasingly likely, leaves Arsenal with just one way of getting back into Champions League football next season. Arsenal need to go all out to win this match and to win the Europa League.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding what kind of lineup we should send out against Benfica, and I personally would send a very strong team out. As you will see though, there are a couple of names I have left out in the name of resting some tired legs, or not risking certain players coming back from injury.
Leno: Ryan impressed me on his debut, but not enough to convince me that we should play him ahead of Leno unless our number 1 is injured. If Arteta feels like he simply has to give Ryan some game time, I’d rather he played Leno in this one and gave Ryan the nod against Manchester City
Bellerin: Bellerin put in a brilliant performance against Leeds, and frankly other than Cedric we don’t have an abundance of options to rotate him with. He has been on good form and I am confident he can keep that going against Benfica
Holding: Holding is right now perhaps our best centre back. He got rested against Leeds and only made an appearance in the last few minutes. However, I think that was probably with this game in mind. I’m expecting to see Holding come into that back line
Mari: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gabriel or Luiz come into the game for this one, but I personally would choose Mari if he is fit. Before his injury, Mari and Holding were developing a brilliant partnership in our defence. I think that it would give other players a rest, and would still be a really strong partnership to go into the game with
Cedric: Now, the news is that Kieran Tierney is with the travelling squad and in contention to start which tells us a lot. Above all it tells us how seriously Arteta will be taking this competition. I personally feel like we may as well just give Tierney an extra game or two to properly finish his recovery. I don’t think we should rush him back for this game and I don’t see a need in risking him in a game as tough as City. Let’s save him for the second leg
Ceballos: I thought he was fantastic against Leeds. It is nice having someone to pick the ball up off the defence and then turn and carry it forward. With Partey out, I’m expecting Ceballos to keep his place and I’m very happy about that
Xhaka: Our Swiss enigma has been continuing his great vein of form in midfield, and I think he will be important in this fixture. We need a leader and he is definitely that for us. I was tempted to include Elneny instead but in the end decided that Xhaka’s experience and form could not be missed for this match
Saka: Saka should keep his spot out on the right. He has been really impressive there recently and has the ability to make things happen from nothing. If this means he has to be rested against Man City I’m absolutely fine with that
Odegaard: We have only seen it in glimpses so far, but I think he is starting to show the qualities he will bring to Arsenal. I think this will be a great opportunity to show us even more with a goal or an assist. Plus, it allows Smith Rowe to get some well-earned rest
Pepe: Smith Rowe has been sensational recently, but so has Pepe. So I’m going to give the nod to the guy who I think is less in need of rest. Pepe was on scintillating form during the group stages and is a player who is really suited to Europa League football. Plus, I think with Cedric at left back it will be important to have a left footer on the left wing ahead of him, to ensure we have a good balance down our left hand side
Lacazette: I was really unsure who to pick to lead the line. Part of me was saying that Aubameyang has just grabbed a hat-trick against Leeds, so let’s keep that confidence soaring and start him here. The other part of me was saying that Lacazette has also been in fine form and was rested against Leeds, perhaps with this game in mind. In the end I sided with Lacazette, but ultimately I won’t mind who we choose to play up front
Photo Credit: Chosen11
Want to write for us? Submit a request or sample to firstname.lastname@example.org