Benfica vs. Arsenal – Europa League, February 18, 2021
Benfica and Arsenal meet for the first leg of their blockbuster Europa League Round of 32 tie on Thursday, February 18.
Due to travel restrictions, Rome’s Stadio Olimpico will host the teams on Thursday. With home-field advantage out of the equation, this is likely to be a closely-fought encounter.
I discuss the bookmakers’ odds before sharing my Benfica vs. Arsenal prediction and betting pick.
Benfica vs. Arsenal Odds
Under normal circumstances, Benfica (2.90) would have probably come into this game as the favorite. But with the first leg being played at a neutral venue in Italy, the top online betting sites view Arsenal (2.25) as the frontrunner here.
Still, the price for the Arsenal win is big, while the odds gaps is pretty narrow. This suggests that we are set for a tight match.
Benfica vs. Arsenal Preview
Benfica made it through the Europa League group stage unbeaten, picking up three wins and three draws on their way to finishing second in Group D.
Two hard-fought draws with Rangers, along with straightforward victories over Lech Poznan and Standard Liege, saw the Eagles score 18 goals during the first phase of the competition (three goals per game), so qualification for the knockout stages was never really in doubt.
However, it’s fair to say that things haven’t been going to plan back home.
Benfica invariably challenges for the Portuguese title, but having only managed to win 11 of their 19 league matches this term, Jorge Jesus’ men currently find themselves fourth in the Liga NOS standings – 13 points behind frontrunner Sporting CP.
The Lisbon outfit has only managed to win one of their last six Primeira Liga outings, making it difficult to predict exactly how the Eagles will fare against Arsenal on Thursday.
3 – Since the start of the 2009-10 season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one of only three players to score a hat-trick in three of the top five European leagues, along with Alexis Sánchez and Salomon Kalou. Continental. pic.twitter.com/5KV8aNYcRP— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 14, 2021
On the flip side, Arsenal enjoyed an unbeaten group-stage campaign, albeit against easy opponents.
The Gunners netted a whopping 20 goals while conceding just five en route to claiming maximum points in Group B, finishing eight points ahead of second-place Molde and miles clear of both Rapid Vienna and Dundalk.
Following a seven-match unbeaten streak in the EPL, Arsenal kicked off February with back-to-back defeats. However, Mikel Arteta’s men quickly returned to winning ways last time out, crushing Leeds United 4-2.
Notably, Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick on Sunday. The club captain’s struggles have been well documented this term, yet he has now bagged five goals in his last four Premier League appearances.
Aubameyang was used sparingly during the group stage, but the Gabon forward is likely to have a big say in the outcome of this Round of 32 tie.
Benfica vs. Arsenal Pick
I’m not going to lie to you – this is a tough call. I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see either of these teams qualify for the next round, so I’m expecting both legs to be tight.
We all know that Benfica is enduring a sticky patch at the moment, but let’s not forget that the Eagles are still one of the strongest teams in the competition.
Given that the Gunners have also struggled for consistency throughout the 2020/21 season, I think the draw is the best bet for this matchup. Plus, odds 3.60 are seriously tasty!