How Arsenal could line-up vs Benfica as Partey return gives Arteta boost

Thomas Partey is expected to return to the matchday squad as Arsenal face Benfica in the second leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie.

The midfielder has not featured for the Gunners since sustaining a thigh injury in their 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa in early February.

Partey has suffered a number of complaints since arriving from Atletico Madrid in a £45million transfer last summer. But his latest return to fitness is a timely one, as Arsenal's last-32 tie with Benfica hangs in the balance after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.

Thursday evening's second leg will be played just outside Athens rather than in north London due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

Arteta confirmed Partey would travel to Greece so long as he came through training on Wednesday unscathed.

"Thomas is very close and has a final test today in training," said the Arsenal boss. "If he’s feeling good he’ll be available."

Partey successfully took part in training and was a member of the squad which travelled to Athens later on Wednesday, reports football.london .

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Arteta may prefer to ease Partey back into the team and it's likely the Ghanaian will settle for a spot on the bench, meaning Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos could continue their partnership in central midfield.

Things are less clear-cut in attack, where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could shift to the left wing to make room for Alexandre Lacazette at centre-forward.

This would see Bukayo Saka – who scored in the first leg – return to the right flank after playing on the left in the 1-0 defeat by Manchester City in the weekend.

Emile Smith Rowe could get the nod at No.10 after starting on the bench against City, while Martin Odegaard has started Arsenal's last three matches and may miss out.

In defence, the Gunners are without Rob Holding, who suffered a concussion in the clash with City.

David Luiz and Gabriel started the first leg at centre-back and could rekindle their partnership, with Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin getting the nod at left-back and right-back respectively.

No.1 Bernd Leno is expected to be handed the gloves.

Arsenal predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Ceballos, Xhaka; Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang; Lacazette.

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