The Europa League takes centre stage tonight as Arsenal take on Portuguese giants Benfica.
Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, this last-32 first-leg tie is not taking place in Lisbon, but at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, with the return fixture being hosted in Athens.
These two teams have not met in competitive action since the second round of the 1991/92 European Cup, when Benfica triumphed 4-2 on aggregate.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal – losing Europa League finalists in 2019 – head into Thursday’s tie having recovered from a recent mini-blip by beating Leeds 4-2 at the Emirates last weekend.
Opponents Benfica are enduring a hugely disappointing domestic campaign, meanwhile, with Jorge Jesus’ side currently languishing fourth in the Primeira Liga and 13 points adrift of leaders Sporting Lisbon.
They reached the first knockout phase of this competition after finishing as runners-up behind Rangers in Group D, while Arsenal won every game home and away against Molde, Rapid Vienna and Dundalk.
Follow Benfica vs Arsenal LIVE with Standard Sport’s blog below…
Arsenal team news
Mikel Arteta is facing several selection dilemmas ahead of tonight’s clash, writes Simon Collings.
The game is the first of a busy 11-day stretch for Arsenal that includes meetings with Leicester, Manchester City and the second leg of their last-32 tie against the Portuguese giants.
As a result, Arteta is expected to rotate his squad during the run of matches to ensure that players stay fresh.
Left-back Kieran Tierney is back fit, but he has only just returned to training this week and as such Cedric Soares is primed to keep his place in the team.
Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka should also start in midfield again as Thomas Partey is not fit, however the attack is likely to change.
Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe are both primed to come in after being rested during Sunday’s win over Leeds.
Standard Sport prediction
Given Benfica’s struggles in the Portuguese top-flight this term, Arsenal will fancy their chances of an away win here – especially after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hat-trick in the 4-2 win against Leeds last weekend.
The Gunners should win, but there could be a few goals.
How to watch Benfica vs Arsenal
TV channel: The match will be televised on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport Ultimate.
Live stream: BT Sport subscribers will be able to watch the match online via the BT Sport website and app.
Date, time and venue
Benfica vs Arsenal is scheduled for an 8pm GMT kick-off tonight – February 18, 2021.
The match will be held behind closed doors at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy due to coronavirus travel restrictions between Portugal and the UK.
Welcome to Benfica vs Arsenal coverage
Good evening and welcome to Standard Sport’s latest LIVE coverage of the last-32 of the Europa League.
This evening’s main event in the late kick-off window comes from the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, where Arsenal take on Portuguese giants Benfica in the first leg on neutral territory owing to travel issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Follow live build-up to tonight’s clash in Italy plus all the latest team news and updates after kick-off at 8pm GMT!