Arteta prepares for clashes with Benfica and Leicester

Arsenal's Rob Holding (right) collides with Manchester City's Joao Cancelo resulting in a concussion

Arsenal's Rob Holding (right) collides with Manchester City's Joao Cancelo resulting in a concussion substitution during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday February 21, 2021. - Credit: PA

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will need to pick his players up for the second leg of Arsenal’s Europa League round-of-32 tie against Benfica on Thursday and a trip to Leicester City on Sunday.

Despite being the “home” leg, the game will take place in Athens due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

Arteta says the match, finely-poised following a 1-1 draw last week, has the feel of a final, with success in the Europa League increasingly looking like the best way to qualify for continental football next season.

”We have a final on Thursday because we want to continue in the competition. We have to sleep, eat and we won’t have time to train then we fly to Greece.”

The boss knows he will have to make changes for the second leg against Benfica as they head into that tie after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.


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”I don’t know if it will be five, four or seven. We will have to see how they react from today’s performance.

“It was a really tough game physically for both because it was full gas from the beginning and we will see who will be available and fit to be there.

Arsenal's Pablo Mari (left) and Manchester City's Bernardo Silva battle for the ball during the Prem

Arsenal's Pablo Mari (left) and Manchester City's Bernardo Silva battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday February 21, 2021. - Credit: PA

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“Obviously we need a fresh team and we need legs as well because then the decision making and everything becomes better when they are fresh. We will see who’s available.”

Former Gunners midfielder Arteta continued: “It’s really important, but obviously every defeat now in the league puts us in a much more difficult position.

“We have to take it game by game and we need a run of games. I think we have a big run of performances, but we’ve lost three games now in different ways and it’s not what we want obviously.”

It will be difficult to juggle and manage the squad, with matches coming thick and fast in the coming weeks.

"It’s hard because everyone wants to play and everyone wants to be available for every game, so if anything, I feel sorry for the players that they cannot play or are not playing more.

"But everybody is doing their best all the time to be available, which I really value a lot. But it’s true that there’s players with lots of minutes and we don’t have the players to replace them, unfortunately."

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