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Arteta makes Tierney decision, £3.6m 'leader' starts: Predicted Arsenal XI vs Benfica

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Arsenal have landed in Rome and are gearing up for the first-leg against Benfica tomorrow night.

The Europa League is our biggest objective this season. Winning the competition will get us back to where we belong, and Mikel Arteta has to make sure that his boys make no mistakes going forward.

Arteta himself needs to get his team spot on in every game. He has to go all out tomorrow and he can think about resting players for the second-leg – if we finish the game tomorrow night with a two-goal lead or more.

Tierney on the bench, Mari starts

Bernd Leno should keep his place even though Maty Ryan showed he’s good enough against Aston Villa. Kieran Tierney is back in full training but it’s not wise to bring him straight back in, especially after what happened when we rushed back Thomas Partey.

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Cedric should carry on at left-back which means that Hector Bellerin will keep his place on the opposite side. Rob Holding returns after getting a break against Leeds and Pablo Mari deserves to start again.

The Spaniard, signed for an initial fee of just £3.6 million (Hashtag Rubro Negro) and labelled a ‘leader’ by Arteta (Standard), was brilliant for us when he started three games in a row in the Premier League after Christmas.

He sadly got injured again and spent about three weeks on the sidelines, but he is back fit now. Mari deserves to get back into the side alongside Holding, who seems to be the perfect partner for him.

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Arteta has little choice in midfield. Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos were absolutely brilliant against Leeds and they are expected to start again. Emile Smith Rowe was given a breather after an hour and he will likely keep his place.

Our front-line is expected to be completely different tomorrow. Alexandre Lacazette will replace hat-trick hero Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top with Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe – who were both unused subs against Leeds – are expected to start either side of the Frenchman.

This team is more than good enough to get a good result against a Benfica side who have struggled since the turn of the year.

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