Emirates Cup 2017: Arsenal vs Benfica Preview

The first of Arsenal's two Emirates Cup games this weekend sees the Gunners take on Benfica.

Emirates Cup 2017: Arsenal vs Benfica Preview
Arsenal's last pre-season game ended in defeat | Photo: Getty Images.

After an absence in 2016, the Emirates Cup returns this year. This time Gunners will welcome Benfica, Sevilla and RB Leipzig to North London as the four teams battle it out for the pre-season trophy. 

There are four games over the weekend, with Sevilla and Leipzig meeting first on Saturday before Arsene Wenger's men face Portuguese Champions Benfica. The latter then face Leipzig on Sunday, with Sevilla being Arsenal's opponents in their second clash of the tournament. 

Pre-season so far

Arsenal come into the Emirates Cup off the back of a mixed pre-season so far. The Gunners comfortably beat Australian opposition Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers but their two games in China presented them with more challenging opposition. 

They managed to come away with a victory against Bayern Munich, beating the German giants on penalties after a late equaliser from Alex Iwobi, but then lost 3-0 to Chelsea at the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing. 

This weekend though will be Arsenal's final chance to prepare for the new season, with the Community Shield and the start of the new Premier League season fast approaching. Therefore these two games at the Emirates Cup will be hugely important for building confidence, and sharpening up the three at the back system. 

The opposition

Benfica won the Portuguese league for the 36th time last season, and will be featuring at the Emirates Cup for a second time after their appearance at the tournament in 2014. 

They finished in last place that time, so will be hoping for an improvement in 2017. During their last outing at the Emirates Cup, they suffered a 3-1 defeat to Valencia, before losing 5-1 to Arsenal as Yaya Sanogo scored four. 

That defeat was the last time the two sides met each other but it hasn't always been that straight forward for Arsenal when they face Benfica.

In a friendly in 2011 Benfica ran out 2-1 victors whilst in competitive encounters, the Gunners are yet to beat them. Their only two matches came in the 1991/92 Champions League as Arsenal drew 1-1 and lost 3-1 to the Portuguese side. 

Benfica's pre-season so far has been indifferent, and their last match was a 1-0 loss to Hull. They've meanwhile beat Real Betis and Swiss side Neuchatel Xamax, but also suffered a heavy loss at the hands of Young Boys

Team news

The Gunners will welcome the three players that played at the European U21 Championships back into the side, as Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers will all be back to bolster a defence that was missing a number of names on the club's pre-season tour. 

Shkodran Mustafi and Alexis Sanchez are not back in training yet, and will therefore miss the two games this weekend following their exploits at the Confederations Cup. 

There are places in the squad for new signings Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac who are due to make their debuts in Arsenal shirts at the Emirates. The usual names are then all included in the squad, whilst youngsters Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Cohen Bramall and Reiss Nelson should also make appearances. 

Joe Willock is also included in the squad named by Wenger, and he could potentially play against his brother Chris Willock, who joined Benfica from Arsenal this summer.

Arsenal FC