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[Image] Partey & Pepe start, no Smith Rowe: My Arsenal line-up vs Benfica

By on February 25, 2021

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Arsenal are in Athens to take on Benfica in the second leg of our Europa League tie this evening [5.55 kick-off]. This is the team I’d like to see Mikel Arteta select for the match…

Bernd Leno started the first leg and he should obviously keep his place this evening as this is Arsenal’s most important game of the season so we can’t mess about with the team selection.

Kieran Tierney came through the Man City defeat unscathed so I’d keep him at left-back while Hector Bellerin should start ahead of Cedric Soares at right-back. Soares is certainly a lot closer to ousting Bellerin but Hector still just edges it for me.

Rob Holding hasn’t travelled as he’s been ruled out with concussion following a head clash against City. I hope we see Gabriel start alongside David Luiz with Pablo Mari and Callum Chambers among the substitutes.

Thomas Partey is back in contention after returning to full training following a thigh injury. He’s only had a couple of sessions so Arteta might be reluctant to start him. However, this is a huge game for Arsenal as our season will be virtually over if we don’t progress in the Europa League so I’d start Partey. If he’s fit enough to train and travel, then he’s fit enough to start this evening.

Dani Ceballos would be the man to miss out if the Ghanaian international does start as Granit Xhaka should keep his place. Mo Elneny would also have to settle for a place on the bench alongside Ceballos.

Obviously Bukayo Saka should start as he’s probably the first name on the Arsenal team sheet right now. Emile Smith Rowe will probably be recalled after being rested at the weekend but I’d actually stick with Martin Odegaard in the No.10 role and start Nicolas Pepe on the left. I’ve been very impressed with Odegaard and think he can be a superb little player while we can’t forget how much Pepe has improved in recent weeks.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the villain of the first leg after missing a couple of great chances and he was poor against City on Sunday but there is no doubt he should still keep his place up front this evening as he’s still Arsenal’s best goal-scorer.

Alexandre Lacazette will be a useful sub if we need to break Benfica down while we’ve also got Gabriel Martinelli as another option from the bench. No doubt Arteta will use Willian at some point as well.

This would be my line-up:

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