Arsenal: Arteta gives team news ahead of Benfica tie
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Arsenal’s Europa League campaign resumes tonight as they play Benfica in the first knockout stage of the Europa League. The tournament presents the Gunners’ best opportunity of qualifying for next season’s Champions League but Mikel Arteta could still ring the changes. Express Sport has picked the Arsenal XI we expect to line up in Rome for the ‘away’ leg of the last-32 tie.
Goalkeeper – Leno
Bernd Leno only played two of the group stage matches earlier in the season.
However, the German is likely to keep his place towards the business end of the campaign.
Mat Ryan proved on his debut against Aston Villa that he is an able understudy to Leno.
But Arteta knows the importance of the competition and has to stick with his No 1.
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Defence – Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Cedric
Kieran Tierney has travelled with the squad to Italy but is unlikely to start having not played a minute of action for a month.
That means Cedric Soares is likely to play at left-back again, with Hector Bellerin on the opposite side.
Rob Holding should come back into defence after being rested against Leeds United on Sunday.
David Luiz, Gabriel and Pablo Mari are all competing for the other centre-half slot. Luiz could get the nod against his former side.
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Midfield – Elneny, Xhaka; Odegaard
Arteta would almost certainly have lined up with Thomas Partey alongside Granit Xhaka in midfield if the Ghanaian was fit.
Mohamed Elneny is the nearest thing to Partey that Arsenal have, so is likely to play ahead of Dani Ceballos.
Martin Odegaard lasted 78 minutes on his full debut on Sunday and Arteta’s praise of the Norwegian could see him start ahead of Emile Smith Rowe for this one.
Smith Rowe has started the last 10 Premier League matches and is due for a rest.
Attack – Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Smith Rowe is not the only player who could be rested by Arteta.
Bukayo Saka has played a lot of football of late and could be held back ahead of Sunday’s match against Manchester City and the return leg next Thursday, with Nicolas Pepe starting instead.
Alexandre Lacazette did not feature against Leeds so is likely to come into the side.
And captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will aim to build on Sunday’s confidence-boosting hat-trick.
Expected Arsenal XI vs Benfica in full: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Cedric; Elneny, Xhaka, Odegaard; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
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