Arsenal to face Benfica in the Europa League Round of 32
The Gunners will face Jan Vertonghen's new side in the Europa League Round of 32
Arsenal have will play Benfica in the Europa League Round of 32 after being drawn against them on Monday afternoon in Nyon, Switzerland. The tie is probably one of the most difficult the Gunners could have been given.
As winners of Group B, the Gunners will play their first leg away from home on February 18th before hosting the Portuguese outfit at the Emirates on the 25th. The specific kick off times will be confirmed later today.
Benfica are currently second in the Portuguese Liga NOS behind Sporting Lisbon and finished as runners up to Rangers in Europa League group D. They also were second best in the Europa League final of 2013 where they lost to Chelsea.
The tie will represent a return to England for Nicolas Ottamendi, Jan Vertoghen and Adel Tarabt who all currently ply their trade in Lisbon. German internationals Julian Weigl and Luca Waldschmitt are also part of the set up at the Estádio Sport Lisboa e Benfica.
Arsenal could also have been drawn against Red Star, Krasnodar, Dynamo Kyiv, Olympiacos, RB Salzburg, Young Boys, Slavia Prague, Granada, Real Sociedad, Braga, Lille, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Antwerp, Wolfsburger AC.
Arsenal's North London rivals Spurs were given a considerably easier tie in the form of Austrian side Wolfsburger AC, while Manchester United face a tough challenge in the form La Liga leaders Real Sociedad after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side dropped down from the Champions League.
Mikel Arteta's side have impressed in the Europa League this season and topped their group containing Molde, Rapid Vienna and Dundalk.
In doing so they became the only side in Europe to maintain a 100% record throughout the group stages, scoring 20 goals along the way.
The competition is already looking like Arsenal's best chance of qualifying for European football next season, as the winner is automatically given a pass into next season's Champions League.
They currently sit 15th in the Premier League, 10 points off Southampton in fourth, having suffered their worst start since 1974 under Mikel Arteta.