Benfica vs Arsenal| Thursday 18th February 2021, 20:00 | BT Sport
Arsenal travel to Rome to commence their knockout tie against Benfica on Thursday evening with the benefit of not having to play at the Estadio da Luz, where Benfica went unbeaten in the group stages.
Both Benfica and Arsenal scored 2+ goals in every group stage game, but whilst Arsenal won 6/6 in the group stages, Benfica struggled in their match ups with Rangers, winning 4/6.
That being said, these two still make up 2 of the top 3 for goals scored, with only Bayer Leverkusen scoring more than Benfica’s 18 and Arsenal’s 20.
Of the 12 games combined between the two in the group stages, every single one went Over 2.5 goals. Benfica notched 3 times or more in each home game, but we cannot read too much into respective home/away data due to the neutral venue. First leg ties in knockout rounds can be largely unpredictable and more often than not lower scoring.
Benfica head into the knockouts as the best disciplined team in the group stages picking up just 6Y and 1R in their six games. they only committed 9.8 fouls per game, the 3rd least out of all teams. Arsenal on the other hand are the least fouled team in the competition, being felled just 7.5 times a game.
They too haven’t been ill disciplined in their approach, but this is largely down to both teams playing significantly weak opposition. Knockout games tend to produce more cards with more on the line. Arsenal picked up 10Y in 6 group stage games and I fancy them on the Asian Card Handicap with Bet365 at 1.825 (touch bigger than 4/5).
This bet wins if Arsenal receive more cards off referee Cuneyt Cakir and the stake is returned if they are level on cautions. The Turkish referee averages 3.75 cards per game in Europe but normally operates in the Champions League. His only two previous games refereeing Arsenal hasn’t seen this bet lose.
With Arsenal’s dirtiest players all in line to start (Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin and Dani Ceballos), I fancy them to out-score Benfica on the card front.
There’s also a player props play I like the look of at Bet365, Darwin Nunez Over 2.5 shots at 5/4.
Nunez is the highest shot taker in both the Europa League and Liga NOS for Benfica and has taken 3+ shots in 10/17 starts domestically (59%). He’s had 4+ shots in his last two games played, as well as 15 shots in just 4 starts in the Europa League. His record reads: 4, 4, 2 and 5.
The Uruguayan has hit this line in 3/4 starts in the Europa. He has 5 goals to his name making him the second highest scorer in the group stages and will be eager to impress against Premier League opposition.
Odds of 5/4 (2.25) at Bet365 suggest a 44% probability but if we take his stats of hitting 3+ shots in 13/21 starts across the two competitions we look to be getting a value price with a 62% hit rate. Then take into account the opposition which is far greater than they have faced already this campaign, I suggest the correct price is more around even money.