Arsenal: Gunners train ahead of Benfica clash
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Thomas Partey has been declared fit to play for Arsenal against Benfica on Thursday evening in a welcome boost for Mikel Arteta’s side, but the Gunners boss will remain without defender Rob Holding who is set to be rested as a precaution. Partey was hurt in the club’s Premier League defeat to Aston Villa earlier this month, adding to his injury-stricken debut season in north London, but will travel to Athens with the hope of making his return.
Arsenal have a lot of work to do against Benfica in the second leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash, with their first meeting six days ago ending in a hard-fought 1-1 draw.
The Gunners have the added benefit of a crucial away goal in their previous encounter, but will need to stand firm against the Portuguese heavyweights in order to avoid a disappointing exit in the first knockout stage.
Partey’s return will reinforce Arteta’s defensive options with the 27-year-old impressing in front of the back four since his summer move from Atletico Madrid.
The midfielder missed the first leg against Benfica and a pair of Premier League matches against Leeds United and Manchester City after his latest injury blow, but Arteta confirmed on Wednesday that he would make the trip to Greece on the condition that he passes a late fitness test.
“Thomas is very close, he’s got a final test today in training and if he is feeling good he will be available,” the Spaniard told reporters.
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Partey was promptly given the green light and travelled with his Arsenal team-mates later in the day, according to football.london.
However, Arteta will be forced to deal with the absence of Holding, who suffered a head injury against City on Sunday.
The central defender was replaced by David Luiz with eight minutes remaining at the Emirates Stadium, marking the Premier League’s first ever concussion substitution.
Arteta explained that his recovery is complete but he will miss out against Benfica as a matter of precaution, in line with current regulations.
“Regarding Rob, he is not available,” continued the Arsenal boss. “He had a concussion. We used that [substitution].
“He is completely fine, but obviously now we need to follow the protocols and he won’t be able to travel.”
Arsenal have won each of their last five home games against Portuguese opposition, averaging four goals per match.
The Gunners have also been victorious in all of their previous encounters in Greece, winning twice against Olympiakos in 2015 and 2020.
Despite history suggesting another positive result for Arsenal, Arteta urged his players to treat the game like a cup final, claiming that a victory would provide a much-needed confidence boost ahead of the business end of the campaign.
“It’s a big season and a really important one mentally and confidence-wise,” he added. “This is really what we need. Really tough opponent.
“They’re a Champions League team that have been playing these types of games for many years. Tomorrow it’s a final.”
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