Verdict: Arsenal win
Best Odds: 11/8
Looking to pick up an early advantage on Thursday night, Arsenal will make the trip to the Stadio Olimpico when they face off against Portuguese outfit Benfica.
Starting with the temporary hosts, throwing away the lead away at Moreirense last weekend and having to settle for a 1-1 draw on their travels, Benfica have only continued to show a host of inconsistencies this season. Despite grabbing a silver medal finish in the Primeira Liga last year, the Reds already find themselves sat 13 points adrift of league leaders Sporting Lisbon. Now in a real battle to secure themselves another European finish this season, Jorge Jesus’ side have managed to win just one of their last six top-flight contests, a run that stems back to January 8th. Gaining a reputation for their extended issues in the final third, the former Flamengo boss should at least take some solace from his side’s European performances this year. Finishing Group D with an unbeaten record in their six qualifying contests, they also bagged themselves at least a pair of goals in each of those six matchups.
Benfica have confirmed that they will once again be without the defensive duo of Andre Almeida and Gilberto this week. However, former Premier League stars Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamend are in line to feature.
Still dealing with a long-term injury issue, Brazilian Jardel will once again be missing on Thursday night.
As for the Arsenal, while they would have been disappointed by those back-to-back defeats against Aston Villa and Wolves earlier in the month, the Gunners would have been glad to make a return to winning ways last weekend. Despite fearing a potential comeback against Leeds on Sunday afternoon, Mikel Arteta’s did eventually leave the Emirates with a 4-2 win. Just about managing to find a route back into the top-half of the Premier League table, the former Manchester City coach will be hoping to keep up that momentum in midweek. Bringing an end to their three-match winless run at the Emirates, the North London outfit will be hoping for attacking MVP Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to spearhead their charge out in Rome. Bagging himself a brace against Leeds over the weekend, the Gabon ace scored his 199th, 200th and 201st goals in Europe’s big-five leagues in what was his 369th appearance. He is one of just nine players to score 200+ goals across the five divisions.
Arsenal look set to be without both Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney when they travel to the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday.
Despite appearing to have picked up a minor ankle knock against Leeds, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been given the green light. Settling for a place on the bench last weekend, Nicolas Pepe could be in line for a recall.
Key Factors to Consider
- When the two sides last faced off back in 2017, Arsenal picked up a 5-2 win in a pre-season contest.
- Benfica have managed to win just one of their last six Primeira Liga matchups.
- Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his 199th, 200th and 201st goals in Europe’s big-five leagues in what was his 369th appearance last weekend.
- Each of Arsenal’s six Europa League matchups in this year’s tournament saw over 2.5 goals by the final whistle.
- Likewise, all six of Benfica’s Group D matchups also saw over 2.5 goals.
Managing to make a much-welcomed return to winning ways last weekend, Arsenal will be desperate to keep up that momentum out in Rome on Thursday night. Eventually clinching a 4-2 win against Leeds on home soil, the Gunners should be confident of picking up an early advantage against a struggling Benfica. Having to settle for a 1-1 draw against Moreirense last time out, the Portuguese outfit have shown a host of issues since returning from the festive break. Winning just one of their last six Primeira Liga matchups, we’re backing Mikel Arteta’s side to grab a crucial lead on Thursday night.
Verdict: Arsenal win
Best Odds: 11/8