Dias, Cancelo, Di Maria: Benfica's XI if they had kept their best players

Ruben Dias has enjoyed a remarkable debut season at Manchester City

Arsenal are expected to beat Benfica on Thursday night and progress to the last-16 of the Europa League.

Despite drawing 1-1 in the away leg, the Gunners showed during the game that there is a gulf in quality between the two sides right now, which isn't a great look for the Portuguese side given Arsenal's struggles this season.

Benfica are a pale shadow of the team they once were and are currently fourth in the Liga NoS table, 15 points behind table-toppers Sporting Lisbon.

However, the side based in the Portuguese capital would almost certainly not be in their current situation had they kept ahold of their best players.

Benfica are renowned for offloading talented players to Europe's elite for massive fees, with Ruben Dias' £65m move to Manchester City last summer the most recent case.

There have been so many down the years that you can create an incredible XI of ex-Benfica players and were this team together right now, they would be competing for Champions League glory.

Dias in action with Benfica

Benfica's incredible XI of former players

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

Right-back: Nelson Semedo (Wolves)

Centre-back: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Centre-back: Victor Lindelof (Manchester United)

Left-back: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)

Centre-mid: Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund)

Centre-mid: Renato Sanches (Lille)

Right-mid: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)

Attacking-mid: Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)

Left-mid: Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain)

Striker: Raul Jimenez (Wolves)

Benfica's potential XI

A team so good that Ederson (Manchester City), one of the best goalkeepers in the world, fails to make the XI due to the presence of Oblak.

David Luiz (Arsenal), Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Andre Gomes (Everton), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Rodrigo Moreno (Leeds United) and Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt) are just some of the other high-profile ex-Benfica players to miss out on a spot in the above XI.

The Lisbon-based outfit really do churn out high-quality footballers for fun and while they have struggled in 2020/21, there are still a few youngsters in the current squad catching the eyes of Europe's elite.

Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez is the pick of the bunch. The 21-year-old has scored four goals and contributed seven assists in 19 league games this season.

He's a player Arsenal defenders will be wary of when the two teams come face-to-face again on Thursday night in Athens.

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