Two storied clubs that have reached five finals between them without lifting the trophy meet in the last 32.
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Two clubs of considerable European pedigree who have reached five UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League finals between them but never lifted the trophy meet in an intriguing round of 32 tie, with Benfica taking on Arsenal in the first leg in Rome.
• The Portuguese giants came through Group D undefeated, with three wins and three draws, but had to settle for second place behind Rangers. Arsenal claimed maximum points from Group B, where they did the double over Rapid Wien, Dundalk and fellow qualifiers Molde, scoring 20 goals in the process – the most ever by an English team in a UEFA Europa League group.
• The clubs have been paired just once previously in UEFA competition, Sven Göran Eriksson's Benfica getting the better of George Graham's Gunners in a 1991/92 European Cup second round tie with a 3-1 comeback victory in extra time in London after a 1-1 first-leg draw in Lisbon, Eagles striker Isaías scoring three times in the tie.
• Benfica have won just 11 of their 36 matches against English clubs (D6 L19), losing European finals to Manchester United (1968 European Cup, 1-4) and Chelsea (2013 UEFA Europa League, 1-2). At home their record is W7 D4 L6, but in the past decade five matches against Premier League visitors have yielded one win, two draws and two defeats, the most recent game a 0-1 loss to Manchester United in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• The Lisbon club's record in two-legged ties against English opposition is W5 L7, with victories in the two most recent, both in the UEFA Europa League – against Newcastle United in the 2012/13 quarter-finals (3-1 h, 1-1 a) and Arsenal's local rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the 2013/14 round of 16 (3-1 a, 2-2 h).
• Arsenal have won only one of their seven previous UEFA competition encounters away to Portuguese clubs (D3 L3) and have never scored more than once in any of those games, managing just four goals in total. Their last such fixture brought a 1-1 draw at Vitória Guimarães in last season's group stage.
• This is just the third two-legged tie Arsenal have been involved in against Portuguese opponents. Having lost the first of them against Benfica, they won the second, 6-2 on aggregate against Porto in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League round of 16, with Nicklas Bendtner scoring a hat-trick in the second-leg 5-0 home win. That is the Gunners' most recent last-16 success in the UEFA Champions League, the seven ties since having all ended in defeat.
• Runners-up to Porto in the 2019/20 Portuguese Liga and Taça de Portugal, Benfica's bid to make it 11 successive appearances in the UEFA Champions League proper foundered on entry in this season's third qualifying round when, under newly reappointed head coach Jorge Jesus, they lost 2-1 at PAOK. They therefore entered the UEFA Europa League group stage for the first time since the competition's inaugural season of 2009/10.
• Benfica made a strong start to Group D, beating Lech Poznań 4-2 away and Standard Liège 3-0 at home before drawing twice with Rangers (3-3 h, 2-2 a) and sealing further progress with a 4-0 win over the Polish side in Lisbon. Although relatively unfamiliar with the UEFA Europa League group stage, Benfica have played more matches in the competition's knockout phase than any other club (40) and were runners-up in both 2012/13 (to Chelsea) and 2013/14 (to Sevilla) under Jesus.
• The Lisbon giants are appearing in the round of 32 for the seventh time. They won their first five ties, remaining unbeaten in all ten matches, but were unable to prolong that unblemished record last season, going out to Shakhtar Donetsk (1-2 a, 3-3 h).
• The Eagles have never lost at home in the UEFA Europa League – a record run of 26 matches, qualifying included, that comprises 21 victories. In the knockout phase their 19 matches have yielded 15 wins and four draws, two of the latter coming in their last two round of 32 fixtures – 0-0 against Galatasaray in 2018/19 (2-1 on aggregate) and 3-3 against Shakhtar last term.
• Benfica have played three previous UEFA matches in Rome, where their record is W1 L2. They followed a win (2-1) and a loss (0-1) at the Stadio Olimpico against Roma with a 3-1 defeat by Lazio on their most recent visit, in the third qualifying round of the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League, losing the tie 4-1 on aggregate.
• Eighth in the 2019/20 Premier League, Arsenal ensured a 25th consecutive season in Europe by winning the FA Cup under new manager Mikel Arteta – the club's record 14th triumph in the competition – with a 2-1 victory over London rivals Chelsea in the final. Their third successive UEFA Europa League campaign was ended in the round of 32 by Olympiacos.
• UEFA Champions League ever-presents for 19 seasons in a row from 1998/99 to 2016/17, Arsenal reached the UEFA Europa League semi-finals at the first attempt in 2017/18, losing to eventual winners Atlético de Madrid, before going one step further and making it to the 2018/19 final, where they were defeated 4-1 by Chelsea in Baku. They have been group winners on all four UEFA Europa League appearances – an unprecedented feat – and this season became the 11th team in the competition to top their section with maximum points thanks to wins against Rapid (2-1 a, 4-1 h), Dundalk (3-0 h, 4-2 a) and Molde (4-1 h, 3-0 a).
• Arsenal won their first two UEFA Europa League round of 32 ties, against Östersund (3-0 a, 1-2 h) and BATE Borisov (0-1 a, 3-0 h), before succumbing last season to a late extra-time goal at home to Olympiacos that eliminated them on away goals (1-0 a, 1-2 h).
• The Gunners are unbeaten in nine European away games (W7 D2) since Rennes beat them 3-1 in the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg. Their overall away record in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is W5 D1 L3, with wins in each of the last three fixtures.
• Arsenal have happy memories of the Stadio Olimpico. A 1-1 draw there against Lazio on their first visit helped them to qualify from the first group stage of the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League, and they were 3-1 victors against Roma at the venue two years later in the second group stage. Although they lost to Roma on their third and most recent visit, 0-1 in the second leg of the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League round of 16, they won the ensuing penalty shoot-out 7-6.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Branimir Kalaica, Lucas Veríssimo (Santos)
Out: Ferro (Valencia, loan), Jean-Clair Tobido (end of loan)
In: Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Ødegaard (Real Madrid, loan), Mat Ryan (Brighton, loan)
Out: Sead Kolašinac (Schalke, loan), Matt Macey (Hibernian), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (West Brom, loan), Shkodran Mustafi (Schalke), Joe Willock (Newcastle, loan), Rúnar Rúnarsson
Links and trivia
• Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney's next appearance in UEFA club competition will be his 50th.
• David Luiz was a Benfica player from January 2007 to January 2011, making 132 appearances for the Lisbon club and winning the 2009/10 Portuguese Liga under current Eagles boss Jesus. Since leaving Benfica the Brazilian defender has played against them three times in Europe for Chelsea, winning all three games including the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League final in Amsterdam.
• Arsenal's Spanish defender Pablo Marí was coached by Jesus at Flamengo in 2019, winning the Brazilian Série A title and the Copa Libertadores.
• Jan Vertonghen spent eight years in north London with Tottenham, accumulating 315 appearances in all competitions, before joining Benfica last summer, while fellow new defensive recruit Nicolás Otamendi arrived in Lisbon after five seasons at Manchester City, during which he won seven major trophies.
• Benfica midfielder Adel Taarabt spent the early part of his career in England, playing for three London clubs – Tottenham, Queens Park Rangers and Fulham.
• Arsenal's Granit Xhaka and Benfica's Haris Seferović are Switzerland team-mates.
• Benfica's Luca Waldschmidt and Julian Weigl are fellow German internationals of Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
• Arsenal's Portuguese international Cédric played in his homeland for Benfica's Lisbon rivals Sporting CP as well as Académica Coimbra.
• Benfica are one of six former European Cup winners in this season's UEFA Europa League knockout phase, the others being Ajax, Crvena zvezda, Manchester United, AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven.
• Benfica were runners-up in the 1982/83 UEFA Cup as well as the 2012/13 and 2013/14 UEFA Europa League, while Arsenal were losing finalists in the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup and 2018/19 UEFA Europa League. Both clubs have lost UEFA Europa League finals to Chelsea.
• Arsenal's win at Dundalk on Matchday 6 was their 29th in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, the most in the competition by an English club – three more than local rivals Tottenham, who have played an additional 11 matches.
• Benfica midfielder Pizzi is the joint leading scorer in this season's UEFA Europa League with six goals, the same number as Yusuf Yazıcı of LOSC Lille.