Ronald Koeman insisted Barcelona's Champions League visit to Benfica could not be classed as decisive in the early stages of Group E.

Barca endured a tough start to the Champions League against Bayern Munich, failing to attempt a shot on target for the first time in the competition since Opta records began in 2003-04.

The Catalan club are looking to avoid losing their first two matches in a European campaign for only the second time in their history, having previously lost both legs of their UEFA Cup first-round tie with Porto way back in 1972-73.

However, Koeman was in confident mood ahead of the trip to Portugal after crushing Levante 3-0 on Sunday, while shunning claims that Wednesday's tie was a must-win.

"Impossible, it is the second of six, it cannot be decisive," Koeman initially responded to reporters on Tuesday before outlining his intentions.

"Barcelona always plays to win the game. Our intention is to control, have the ball and look for spaces with the players we have.

"We expect a difficult game. I know the atmosphere that can be in the stadium and the strength that [Benfica] have at home.

"They play at home, and they will have the environment in their favour, they will try attack to win. It is not a team that plays not to lose. And we have the same intention at home or away, to take control of the game to win."

Koeman remained secretive as to whether the recovering Ansu Fati, who has now been involved in 17 goals in 44 appearances across all competitions following his strike against Levante, would feature.

Memphis Depay has scored in his past two games against Benfica in the competition, and he is expected to lead the line once more, though he did not attempt a single shot on matchday one against Bayern.

Whoever Koeman selects up top, Blaugrana centre-back Ronald Araujo is backing his side to compete and challenge for titles in both the Champions League and LaLiga this term.

"We are Barcelona, and we have to aspire to all the titles," Araujo told reporters.

"We cannot go to see what happens, we have to go to win and try to win as many titles as we can.

"It's an important game against a great rival, but we are going to win. We come from a great game at the weekend and I think that's the way to go. We have to go for the three points."

Barcelona host Bayern Munich as two Champions League heavyweights headline the first round of matchday one fixtures on Tuesday.

Barca will be without Lionel Messi for a European campaign for the first time since 2003-04 as they seek revenge against the Bundesliga outfit.

Manchester United – armed with the competition's all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo – travel to Young Boys while reigning champions Chelsea begin at home to Zenit.

Italian giants Juventus make the trip to Sweden's most successful team Malmo, who are making their first appearance in the group stage since 2015-16 following their title win in 2020.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data ahead of Tuesday's fixtures.

Barcelona v Bayern Munich: Blaugrana out to make amends

Barcelona and Bayern Munich have not met in the group stages since 1998-99, but the Bundesliga side did inflict Barca's heaviest defeat since April 1951 with an 8-2 crushing in 2019-20's quarter-finals.

There are remarkable records at stake for both sides as well, Bayern boasting the longest unbeaten away run in the history of the competition (18), while Barca are unbeaten in their last 22 group-stage openers – stretching back to 1997-98.

However, Julian Nagelsmann's side have won 17 opening games in a row and they also have Robert Lewandowski to call upon, the forward scoring 28 times since the start of 2018-19 – eight more than any other Champions League player.

 

Young Boys v Manchester United: Ronaldo returns for another record

Young Boys have won only one of 13 games against English opponents in European competition as they prepare for Manchester United, who have lost just one of their last 21 openers.

However, United have been beaten in six of their 10 Champions League matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – as many as they did in their last 20 under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Having not appeared for the Red Devils in 12 years and 110 days – the fourth longest gap between appearances for the same club – Cristiano Ronaldo could equal the all-time appearance record in the Champions League, moving level with Iker Casillas on 177.

Chelsea v Zenit: History favours the champions

The reigning Champions League champions have only lost two of 27 games when starting their title defence, with no side ever losing a home game immediately following continental success.

Zenit face an uphill battle, given they are winless in their last seven fixtures, while Chelsea are unbeaten in 11 games in the group stage.

Indeed, the Blues are unbeaten in six matches against Russian teams and, since the start of last season, no team have lost fewer matches (1) or kept more clean sheets (9).

 

Malmo v Juventus: Allegri's away-day specialists

Tuesday will be Malmo head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson's managerial debut in the competition after last appearing as a player for Milan in the 2005 final.

The hosts, though, have scored just three goals across 10 previous appearances, while Juventus have won their last five group stage away games.

The visitors will also have Alvaro Morata available, the forward one of only three Spaniards to score more than 20 Champions League goals after netting six times in eight matches last term.

 

Other fixtures:

Dynamo Kyiv v Benfica

143 – Dynamo Kyiv manager Mircea Lucescu (76) and Benfica's Jorge Jesus' (67) combined age of 143 is the oldest of two managers to face off in the Champions League.

25 – The hosts are one of 25 teams to play 100 or more fixtures in the competition, but they have the third worst loss percentage (49) behind Olympiacos (52) and Galatasaray (51).

Lille v Wolfsburg

1 – Lille have only managed one win against German opposition in nine attempts in European competition, last prevailing in 2002.

5 – Wolfsburg have won five of their last six Champions League games and have scored twice in four of those victories.

Sevilla v Red Bull Salzburg

64 – Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri is averaging a Champions League goal every 64 minutes, recording three braces for his six goals in eight games last campaign.

2 – Red Bull Salzburg have only won two of their last 15 matches in the competition, but both of them have come away from home against Genk and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Villarreal v Atalanta

15 – Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno has 15 Europa League goals but has never played in Europe's premier competition – since 1992-93 only three players have scored more and not played in the Champions League.

5 – Atalanta have won five of their last six away games, only losing against Real Madrid, while they have also progressed from their two previous group stage campaigns.

Manchester United had a busy window in the transfer market.

The Red Devils landed Cristiano Ronaldo as well as Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho.

But their plans will not stop there, as the Red Devils set their sights on re-claiming silverware.

 

TOP STORY - HAALAND TO BE UNITED'S TRANSFER PRIORITY

Manchester United's priority transfer target in mid-2021 will be Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland despite their recent spending spree, claims ESPN.

Haaland can trigger a release in his Dortmund contract at the end of the 2021-22 season that is reportedly set at €75 million.

ESPN's report cites sources who claim United's capture of Ronaldo came outside of their transfer budget, meaning it will not impact their 2022 recruitment plans.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims that Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne may be willing to leave the club next off-season on a free transfer to join Inter if they cannot agree to a new deal.

- Injured French forward Ousmane Dembele is set to be offered a new deal by Barcelona according to RAC. Barca have seen Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann leave over the past month.

- Barcelona will also look to sign Dani Olmo from RB Leipzig in January after missing out with their deadline day claims Mundo Deportivo.

- Ex-Arsenal and Chelsea defender David Luiz is weighing up options with Lazio , Benfica and Flamengo as a free agent reports Sportitalia.

Ten-man Benfica survived a PSV onslaught to join Young Boys and Malmo in clinching a spot in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday.

The Portuguese side lost Lucas Verissimo to a second yellow card with 32 minutes played in the second leg at Philips Stadion, yet PSV could not find a way through from any of their 21 shots, eight of which were saved by Odisseas Vlachodimos.

PSV had 73 per cent possession and wasted a huge chance when Eran Zahavi hit the bar with the goal gaping, but their failure to score ensured Benfica went through to the competition proper 2-1 on aggregate following their victory on home soil last week.

Young Boys are also through at the expense of stubborn Ferencvaros side thanks to a 3-2 win in Budapest to complete a 6-4 aggregate victory.

Ferencvaros battled back through goals from Henry Wingo and Ryan Mmaee in the space of nine first-half minutes to cancel out Cedric Zesiger's opener on the day, making it 4-4 on aggregate.

But Christian Fassnacht swung the game back in Young Boys' favour and Felix Mambimbi sealed the win after Aissa Laidouni had been shown a second yellow, condemning Ferencvaros to Europa League football in the process.

Ludogorets must also settle for a place in Europe's secondary competition this term, despite beating Malmo 2-1 in the second leg of their playoff-round tie.

The Swedish visitors held a 2-0 advantage from the reverse fixture and that came in handy when Ludogorets skipper Anton Nedyalkov struck 10 minutes into the match at Huvepharma Arena.

Veljko Birmancevic hit back for Malmo before half-time to restore their two-goal lead and they held on to reach the Champions League group stage for a third time, and first since 2016, despite Pieros Sotiriou's penalty on the hour setting up a nervy finish.

Malmo, along with Benfica and Young Boys, will discover their group stage opponents on Thursday when the draw is made in Istanbul.

The second legs of the other three play-offs involving Brondby, Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb, Sheriff Tiraspol, Shakhtar Donetsk and Monaco will take place on Wednesday.

Manchester City still hope to sign Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane in the coming days.

The Premier League champions appear likely to add his international team-mate first, with Jack Grealish reportedly close to a move to the Etihad Stadium.

Aston Villa have tabled a contract to keep their star man, but City are prepared to spend big to win his signature.

 

TOP STORY - CITY CLOSE ON GREALISH DEAL

Manchester City are set to complete a £100million move for Jack Grealish in the next few days, according to multiple reports

The Mail says the 25-year-old England international will earn more than £200,000 a week upon joining Pep Guardiola's side. 

Though City are expected to cut ties with some veteran players, adding Grealish will have no impact on their longstanding pursuit of Harry Kane, the Sun reports.

 

ROUND-UP

- Saul Niguez is weighing up a move to the Premier League, with the Mirror reporting Manchester United and Liverpool are possibilities for the Atletico Madrid midfielder in a £35-£40m deal. 

- Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are possibilities for Bernardo Silva if he leaves City in the coming weeks, reports the Mail. 

- Atalanta centre-back Cristian Romero wants to join Tottenham but the clubs are having difficulty reaching an agreement, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Brazilian striker Kaio Jorge is set for a €3m (£2.5m) permanent move to Juventus from Santos and is expected to sign through to 2026, reports Romano. 

- Arsenal and Everton have shown interest in Schalke's Matthew Hoppe after the USA international's strong Gold Cup performance, reports US journalist Grant Wahl.

- Talks between Wolves and Adama Traore have broken down and Leeds could swoop for the winger, reports Goal. 

- Brighton are interested in Benfica striker and Urugay international Darwin Nunez, reports the Mail. 

Kieran Trippier has one year remaining on his Atletico Madrid contract.

The England international has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.

It has been reported that Trippier wants to return to England, having left Tottenham for LaLiga in 2019.

 

TOP STORY - TRIPPIER TO WAIT ON UNITED MOVE

Manchester United target Kieran Trippier is willing to wait until late in the transfer window to secure his move, reports the Telegraph.

Atletico Madrid full-back Trippier is said to have set his sights on a move to United, who have already been busy in the transfer market by launching moves for Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

The report claims Trippier is prepared to sit tight and wait for United to raise the funds required to put together a move for the 30-year-old former Manchester City junior.

 

ROUND-UP

- Aston Villa are ready to restart talks with Jack Grealish about a new deal next week as Manchester City begin to ramp up their interest, according to the Express and Star.

- Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is being lined up by West Ham,  with a proposed £20m bid set to be tabled, according to the Daily Mail. It had been reported Zouma may be used in a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

- Barcelona are lining up a second bid to sign Juventus defender Cristian Romero after having had a player-plus-cash deal turned down, reports SportItalia. Tottenham are also keen on Romero.

- Celtic could make a move for ex-England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is currently on Tottenham's books, says BBC Sport.

Inter have come under attack from Portuguese champions Sporting CP after releasing former €40million man Joao Mario to join Benfica.

The Serie A winners announced on Monday they had freed up Joao Mario, whom they signed from Sporting five years ago.

Joao Mario spent last season back on loan with Sporting, helping the team end an 19-year wait for the Primeira Liga title, and had a year remaining on his Inter contract when he was cut free from that deal.

However, rather than return to Sporting on a permanent basis, he has joined their Lisbon rivals Benfica, signing a five-year deal.

Crucially, Sporting say they were due a further €30million from the initial deal that took Joao Mario to San Siro, in the event of him moving on to a rival Portuguese club.

Benfica announced his arrival on Tuesday, with Joao Mario signing as a free agent rather than moving directly from Inter, meaning the compensation clause was not triggered.

Sporting also claimed to have made an offer of their own to Inter for Joao Mario.

"It is the conviction of the board of directors... that a contractual expedient was used, through which Inter and Joao Mario sought to bypass the terms of the agreement signed with Sporting... in 2016," the statement from Sporting added.

"This expedient only illustrates that all parties knew the obligations they assumed in 2016 and which, after five years, they have now intended to avoid."

Sporting said they would hold "the intervening parties responsible for the damages caused and for the non-fulfilment of the agreed obligations".

Inter denied the accusations, saying there were no grounds for Sporting to make such claims.

In a statement, Inter said: "FC Internazionale Milano has taken note of what Sporting Lisbon has said to the press. These are unacceptable, very serious and above all unfounded statements. The company will protect its image and reputation in the appropriate places."

Joao Mario struggled to make an impact at Inter and had a loan spell with West Ham in 2018, with a stint at Lokomotiv Moscow preluding his return to Sporting.

Inter have agreed to terminate Portugal international midfielder Joao Mario's contract by mutual consent.

The 28-year-old joined Inter from Sporting for €40 million in 2016 after Portugal's Euros triumph but struggled to break into the first team, spending most of his time out on loan.

Joao Mario had a loan spell with West Ham United in 2018, before stints at Lokomotiv Moscow and Sporting.

"Thanks so much Inter. Good luck for the future," Joao Mario posted in a brief message on Twitter.

Joao Mario was part of Sporting's 2020-21 Portuguese Primeira Liga title which ended their 19-year wait.

The Euro 2016 winner only managed 69 appearances for the Nerazzurri during his five years with the club and had one year remaining on his contract.

He is expected to join Benfica but part of his loan with Sporting prevented him from joining another Portuguese club unless Inter paid a significant fee, thus the decision to part ways.

It is understood Benfica were willing to pay €7.5 million for Joao Mario, who cost Inter €40m plus bonuses in 2016 and is now a free agent.

Arsenal have completed the signing of defender Nuno Tavares from Benfica.

The Gunners confirmed on Saturday that Tavares had joined on a long-term deal, with Arsenal having paid the Primeira Liga side a reported €8million plus add ons.

Left-back Tavares made 25 league appearances for Benfica, 17 of which were starts, and proved himself an impressive creative outlet.

Indeed, Tavares created 23 chances in the Portuguese top flight, laying on four assists.

He will link up with the Arsenal squad after travelling from Portugal and completing his period of isolation in the United Kingdom.

"When I finished the season my agent told me that Arsenal were interested in me," Tavares told the club's official website.

"In the first instance I was very happy and after this I dreamed about it, and [spoke about it] with my mum. I was so excited to be here, and now I'm here I'm so happy.

 

"I'm so excited because it is a big club and for me as a young guy, it is a pleasure to be here.

"[Manager] Mikel [Arteta] and [technical director] Edu helped me so much.

"They speak with me every time, and call me and I feel people want me here. I like that because I need this power and I'm so grateful for this."

Arteta said: "We welcome Nuno to the club. He is a young player with great promise who has developed very well with Benfica in recent seasons and has also shown his quality by being part of Portugal Under-21s.

"Nuno's arrival will give the squad extra strength and options in defence, particularly with this energy on the left side of the pitch.

"We look forward to Nuno's arrival soon, his integration into the Arsenal family and playing in front of our fantastic supporters."

Lionel Messi became a free agent last week.

Initial reports suggested he had agreed to a new two-deal with Barca.

The 34-year-old told Barcelona last year he wanted to leave but opted to remain.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI BEING EYED BY DUO

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are both monitoring Lionel Messi's transfer position after becoming a free agent, according to the front page of Tuesday's Mundo Deportivo.

Messi's Barcelona contract expired on June 30, but he has been widely expected to re-sign with the LaLiga giants, who need to manage their finances.

However, with Messi still unattached, Ligue 1 powerhouse PSG and Premier League champions City are continuing to eye the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports Sergio Ramos, fresh from his Real Madrid exit, will have a medical with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday and join as a free agent.

Juventus remain interested in signing France international midfielder Paul Pogba from Manchester United, according to 90min.

- Marca reports United are leading the race to sign Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga, ahead of Madrid and PSG.

City may still turn to Barca forward Antoine Griezmann, if they fail to land Tottenham's Harry Kane, claims Mundo Deportivo. City have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Inter star Romelu Lukaku.

- New Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo is interested in signing Benfica's Haris Seferovic reports the Mirror. Benfica are looking to sell the Swiss striker.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Juventus have not initiated any move for Barcelona's Miralem Pjanic despite links of a return to his former club. Juve continue to be linked with Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli, who is also reportedly wanted by Arsenal.

Is Lionel Messi's future on the verge of being resolved at Camp Nou?

Messi's contract with LaLiga powerhouse Barcelona expires this week and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with a move.

But, if reports are to be believed, the superstar is poised to extend his long stay at Barca.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA READYING MESSI ANNOUNCEMENT

Barcelona are preparing to officially announce an agreement has been reached with Messi, according to Football Espana and Fabrizio Romano.

The superstar captain has been linked with Premier League champions Manchester City and Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

But Messi is now set to renew for a further two years at Barca, where the 34-year-old has spent his entire senior career.

 

ROUND-UP

City will renew their attempts to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham after Euro 2020, claims Romano. City are among a host of clubs interested in Kane, who is also reportedly wanted by Manchester United, Chelsea, Barca, Real Madrid and PSG. Spurs, however, are unwilling to sell the England star. City have also been linked with Inter's Romelu Lukaku and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Brahim Diaz will join Milan from Madrid on loan with an option to buy, reports Sky Sport. The Spaniard spent the 2020-21 season on loan at San Siro. Milan are also interested in Alvaro Odriozola if they are unable to bring Diogo Dalot back from United.

- Gianluca Di Marzio says Arsenal are trying to sign Benfica full-back Nuno Tavares, who has also been linked with Napoli and Lazio.

- Serie A champions Inter are eyeing Franck Kessie amid his contract stalemate with neighbours Milan, according to Tuttosport.

- Tuttosport reports Arsenal are pressing to bring Italy forward Andrea Belotti to London from Torino. Roma have long been linked with Belotti, as well as Milan.

Juventus are ready to make a bid for Lille and Portugal star Renato Sanches, per Calciomercato. Milan are also interested as Juve look to prise Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo.

- Mundo Deportivo says Atletico Madrid are interested in former Barca midfielder Paulinho. The Brazilian is a free agent after leaving Chinese outfit Guangzhou FC.

- There are two clubs trying to sign Luka Jovic from Madrid, claims Diario AS. Jovic, who returned to former club Eintracht Frankfurt on loan in 2020-21, has been linked with Milan.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Achraf Hakimi will complete his move to PSG from Inter, who are eyeing Arsenal's Hector Bellerin as a replacement.

Could Luis Suarez return to Liverpool, where he spent three and half seasons from 2011 to 2014?

The Uruguayan forward has been a key part of Atletico Madrid's LaLiga title push this term, with 19 league goals.

The Reds are reportedly keen to bolster their forward options, with Suarez on their list.

 

TOP STORY – REDS PREPARING SUAREZ OFFER

Liverpool are interesting in the return of Suarez this off-season and are preparing an offer for the Atletico Madrid forward, according to Fichajes.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp reportedly wants to add experience to his front line and 34-year-old Suarez fits the bill.

Suarez scored 82 goals in 133 appearances for the Reds in his previous stint before joining Barcelona.

ROUND-UP

- Spanish outlet Cope claims that Real Madrid are not contemplating a move for Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo despite widespread speculation of a return. The report says Madrid are focused on the future rather than a veteran player whose career is winding down.

- Barcelona are planning to release Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho this off-season due to their financial issues, allowing them to retain young talent Pedri, Ilaix Moriba and Ansu Fati, according to El Confidencial.

- On the topic of Barcelona, Sport is claiming the Catalans have approved the signings of Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool and Memphis Depay from Lyon and are awaiting validation from their new board.

- Diego Costa has reached an agreement to join Benfica as a free agent, according to Mundo Deportivo. Costa left Atletico Madrid in December and returned to his native Brazil.

- Manchester United are considering a move to sign 24-year-old Villarreal defender Pau Torres in the off-season, according to the Manchester Evening News.

- Galatasaray, Flamengo or Marseille are the primary options to be Arturo Vidal's next home as he is set to leave Inter, reports Calciomercato.

Where will Jack Grealish play his football next season?

It is one of the big questions in English football right now and Manchester City have joined the conversation.

City are reportedly emerging as the favourites to sign the Aston Villa captain.

 

TOP STORY – CITY LINE UP GREALISH SPLASH

Manchester City appear best placed to sign Aston Villa's £100million-rated captain Jack Grealish, according to the Daily Mail.

Grealish reportedly came close to joining Manchester United last year, but the Red Devils could not come up with the funds to seal the deal.

City manager Pep Guardiola is a well-known admirer of Grealish, previously calling him "an exceptional player".

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Liverpool have joined the queue chasing Inter defender Alessandro Bastoni, with a reported £43m (€50m) move. European heavyweights Bayern Munich and Barcelona are also allegedly keen on the 21-year-old Italy international.

Tottenham are likely to opt out of exercising the £36m (€42m) option-to-buy Carlos Vinicius, who is on loan at Spurs from Benfica according to the Daily Mail. The report claims Spurs are only willing to pay more than half that amount for the Brazilian.

- Calciomercato says Juventus are considering a move for Arkadiusz Milik, who they have previously been linked with as they prepare for the possible departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala. Juve are reportedly set to revive their interest in Milik, with the Poland international on loan at Marseille from Napoli.

- Football Insider reports that United are plotting a move for Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez amid doubts over star David de Gea and Dean Henderson. They have also been linked with Milan sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Real Madrid are keen to bring back Levante winger Jorge de Frutos to the Santiago Bernabeu, according to Marca.

Mikel Arteta singled out Willian for "changing the game" against Benfica as Arsenal salvaged a dramatic victory to progress from Thursday's Europa League last-32 tie.

Arsenal, the designated home team, were on the brink of exiting the competition at the first knockout-stage hurdle for the second year running before a late turnaround on neutral soil in Greece.

Diogo Goncalves' impressive free-kick and Rafa Silva's finish into an empty net cancelled out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's opener to give Benfica a 3-2 aggregate lead.

Along with Thomas Partey, Willian was brought on two minutes later and the double change paid off as Arsenal hit back to salvage their campaign in the final half an hour.

Full-back Kieran Tierney lashed home and Aubameyang proved the match-winner three minutes from the end with a header to send Arsenal through 4-3 on aggregate.

Aubameyang took the plaudits with his late goal but Arteta felt Willian, who set up Tierney's goal, was the Gunners' real hero.

"Willian, specifically, I think he changed the game," Arteta said at his post-match news conference.

"He gave us much more composure in moments, produced some creativity, produced the goal for Kieran and we need everybody on board."

Willian completed 94 per cent of his 17 passes in the opposition half – the best return of any Arsenal player to have attempted at least three such passes.

The assist for Tierney's goal was the only key pass Willian played, with the Scotland international arrowing the ball away from Helton Leite at a crucial point in the tie.

Tierney, who became the first Scotsman to score for Arsenal in a major European competition since Willie Young against IFK Goteborg in March 1980 in the Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final, was also the recipient of individual praise from his manager.

"The way I'd describe him is all determination, all passion for what he does," the Spaniard said.

"The way he has come back from his injury and how willing he is to help the team. He gives us a big lift."

Aubameyang has now scored in seven of his last eight cup matches for Arsenal, netting 10 goals in total, with his only blank coming in the first leg against Benfica.

The Gabon international missed a big chance to send his side through at the same stage last season and is pleased to have put that miss against Olympiacos behind him.

"I definitely had that in my head but this is what gives me power every day to take the errors from the past and transform it to strength," he told BT Sport.

"The team showed a lot of character and we deserved the win. It was a hard game. What we showed tonight will be an example for the future."

Aubameyang now has 13 goals for the season in all competitions and Arteta added: "I completely trust him because we're producing the chances and you know when Auba has chances he's going to score goals."

Arsenal, who have now won on each of their last three visits to Greece, will learn their last-16 opponents in Friday's draw.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pounced for the goal that could save Arsenal's season as his late header earned a 3-2 win over Benfica in Greece.

The Gunners scraped through to the Europa League last-16 stage, winning the tie 4-3 on aggregate thanks to two goals from captain Aubameyang and one from Kieran Tierney, but it was very nearly a shocker of a night for Mikel Arteta and his team.

They took the lead through Aubameyang, but Dani Ceballos then blundered twice and Diogo Goncalves and Rafa put Benfica ahead.

Kieran Tierney hit back, yet it looked as though Arsenal, the designated home team, would be eliminated on the away-goals rule until Aubameyang headed in Bukayo Saka's cross in the 87th minute, ensuring their only realistic route into next season's Champions League was not cut off.

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