Friendlies

Arsenal vs. Benfica: Date, Time, Live Stream, TV Info, Emirates Cup 2014 Preview

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 26:   Arsene Wenger, head coach of Arsenal, waves to fans before a friendly match against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on July 26, 2014 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2014

Arsenal begin the last leg of their pre-season schedule with the return of the Emirates Cup on Saturday, where their first opponents will be Portuguese giants Benfica.

The Eagles come to north London as reigning Primeira Liga champions and promise to pose a stiff challenge for the tournament hosts, with fans hoping to see the strongest line-ups possible on display.

The Gunners are unsurprisingly the most successful side in the contest's history but have failed to win either of the last two editions. Galatasaray and the New York Red Bulls prevailed in 2013 and 2011, respectively.

Arsene Wenger will hope to subvert that losing streak in this weekend's two-day event, but Saturday's test will be the first hurdle to overcome, and getting the better of Benfica will be no small task.

 

Date: Saturday, Aug. 2

Time: 4:20 p.m. BST/11:20 a.m. ET

Live Stream: BT Sport Player (UK, subscription required), Arsenal Player (Subscription required), beIN Sports Play (US, subscription required)

TV Info: BT Sport 1 (UK), beIN Sports 3 (US)

 

Key Players to Watch

Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez

The Emirates Cup hands Wenger a fine opportunity to give his fans their first glimpse at some of this summer's newly acquired talent, of which Alexis Sanchez is undoubtedly the most highly anticipated.

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 28:  Alexis Sanchez of Chile controls the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil round of 16 match between Brazil and Chile at Estadio Mineirao on June 28, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Image
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Having not travelled with the side for previous friendlies against Boreham Wood and the New York Red Bulls, the Chilean international could line up against Benfica or Monaco on Saturday or Sunday, respectively. The more impact he can make, the better.

So strong is the hype building up to Sanchez's Premier League debut, in fact, that Paddy Power have the Gunners winger as favourite to come out as 2014-15 top scorer:

Benfica will be an opponent of Champions League quality, Jorge Jesus' line-up pending, but Wenger will hope Sanchez instantly endears himself to the crowd with a goal to remove the inevitable pressure of a £32 million price tag.

 

Benfica: Joao Teixeira

In the raft of star talent present in the Lisbon giants' squad, Joao Teixeira may not be a household name, at least not on par with the likes of Oscar Cardozo or Eduardo Salvio.

That said, the Benfica academy graduate is beginning to make his move into the club's senior reckoning, though not to be confused with his Liverpool namesake.

Having scored the second in Benfica's recent 2-0 friendly win over Swiss side Sion, the midfield anchor could get his chance from the first whistle against Arsenal in what would be some terrific experience this early in his career.

The 21-year-old will have a stern contest in limiting Wenger's array of creative weapons, but with Jesus hoping to advance him in the first-team ranks, his name could be one to watch out for in particular.

 

Key Battle

Mathieu Debuchy vs. Nicolas Gaitan

TURIN, ITALY - MAY 14:  Federico Fazio of Sevilla tackles Nicolas Gaitan of Benfica in the area during the UEFA Europa League Final match between Sevilla FC and SL Benfica at Juventus Stadium on May 14, 2014 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Im
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Another of Arsenal's new signings hoping to get his first minutes for the club is Mathieu Debuchy, who could face the most essential head-to-head of all against Nicolas Gaitan.

Having spent more than £25 million on their right-back investments this summer, however, Arsenal may opt for Calum Chambers in the starting XI. Arsenal's official Twitter account analyses the competition:

Gaitan is a player with vast European experience, and though inconsistent at times, he possesses a blend of pace and skill capable of troubling any defence ahead of him.

Debuchy is the kind of full-back who likes to roam in his duties, and should Benfica do a good enough job of dispelling his offensive threat, Gaitan can be unleashed with ample room to manoeuvre. 

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