Predicted XI

Partey still out - How Arsenal could line up against Benfica

The former Atletico Madrid midfielder's Arsenal career has been fractured by injuries so far, and he will miss the first leg of the Europa League last 32

1:33pm on Wednesday 17th February 2021
Martin Macdonald

Arsenal will continue to be without Thomas Partey for their Europa League first knockout stage clash against Benfica on Thursday.

The former Atletico Madrid midfielder is set to miss two weeks of action after being forced off against Aston Villa due to injury with 15 minutes to go last weekend.

He was absent for the weekend victory versus Leeds, and will probably miss Sunday's huge game against Man City in the Premier League this Sunday.

There is more positive news surrounding Kieran Tierney as he is close to returning after a spell out, but it is likely he won't be risked in the first leg of this tie, especially with Man City on the horizon.

Mikel Arteta has tended to make widespread changes in the Europa League this season, but the competition is now Arsenal's best chance of silverware in 2020/21 so don't expect quite as many for this one.

There will be some players who will be expecting game time, though.

Runar Alex Runarsson was replaced in the squad in January by new recruit Maty Ryan, and the Australian will probably start in goal with Bernd Leno dropping to the bench.

Hector Bellerin and Cedric Soares will probably have to continue in the full-back positions, but Arteta has to choose between two of Rob Holding, David Luiz, Pablo Mari, and Gabriel for the centre-back spots.

Holding is certainly due a start, probably for Luiz.

The Gunners are not blessed with a lot of options in central midfield, so Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos could start again, though it is more likely that Mohamed Elneny will be given minutes in place of the Switzerland international.

Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe are pushing for starts and could come in for Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may just be rested for the Man City game, and if he is, Alexandre Lacazette will come in up top.

Arsenal predicted XI against Benfica

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