As the Portuguese media builds up the big coverage for the Europa League clash between Benfica and Arsenal, newspaper O Jogo features an interesting story today.
The outlet managed to interview West Bromwich Albion midfielder Matheus Pereira, and instead of making questions about his time with the Baggies, all they wanted to know was his opinion on the Gunners.
The Brazilian spent many years at Sporting, from where he moved to WBA in 2019, so he’s used to the Portuguese press and happy to give them his insight.
“Benfica have players with a lot of quality, they also have the possibility of getting a good result, it just depends on the players’ heads”, Pereira told O Jogo.
“Benfica at its best will play a great game and achieve a good result. The moment can influence, but only those with weaker heads. It will depend a lot on how you face the game and the opponent.”
Quizzed about how dangerous can Arsenal be, Pereira said: “Arsenal have been growing week by week with the new coach, they’ve become a very balanced team. They have a very strong attack, a good midfield and a good defence”.
The Brazilian was also asked if Mikel Arteta’s side has something of a tiki-taka philosophy due to the manager’s work with Pep Guardiola.
“They’ve been growing, Arteta has created a very good and very interesting philosophy. I wouldn’t say it’s a tiki-taka like Guardiola’s, but it’s true that Arsenal have a very strong positional attack as a result of Arteta’s philosophy. He has something from Guardiola, from whom he learned, and is trying to implement that idea.
“He’s starting to bear fruit. In addition to the players at the front, there are still Ceballos and Xhaka in the midfield. It’s difficult to stop Arsenal, of course, as it’s a team that has been growing. This is their moment, they are going through a good phase, it’ll be difficult for Benfica. But I don’t say impossible, because Benfica are also a good team. Furthermore, I know Jorge Jesus well, I worked with him and he has a very strong philosophy.
“Benfica are a top team, a big team, they have a lot of ambition and goes a lot with the players’ will, desire and ambition. All of this will make sure that they can have a good result. Benfica don’t have a bad team, they have a good team. I’m not going to say it’s Arsenal’s level, which is also a great team, but in terms of history of achievements, they’re ahead of Arsenal, because they have more titles in recent years. Ambition and concentration will dictate the game. For both Benfica and Arsenal, it will make a difference.”
Matheus Pereira also talked about Bukayo Saka’s good season with Arsenal: “The kid is doing very well, he’s having a very good time. There is, of course, Aubameyang, who scored three goals in the last game and Lacazette. They have many good options. When they’re on their day they’re a danger. They’re important in Arsenal’s very strong positional attack”.
Finaly, on what can Benfica do to have an kind of advantage against the Gunners, Pereira said: “Benfica can explore the empty spaces that appear and some weaknesses that Arsenal, like all teams, also have. They leave spaces for opponents and Benfica can enter there. You have to alternate and search in different ways, sometimes the counterattack will be better, other times you will have to bet more on the positional attack. The defence has some weaknesses, it’s not 100 percent perfect”.
Benfica and Arsenal are playing the round-of-32’s first leg in Rome on Thursday. The second leg will then be hosted in Athens in a week.