Arsenal take a trip to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon in a crunch encounter as the Gunners look to take three points and firm control of their group.
Arsenal’s winning run continued over the weekend as they beat Leicester City, and the Gunners are now eyeing their 11th successive win in all competitions as they prepare to take on Sporting Lisbon away from home. Arsenal have never won a game on Portuguese soil and are looking to change on Thursday to take firm control of their group.
Unai Emery is expected to make significant changes to his starting lineup from the last game against Leicester where he placed many key stars on the bench. Among those are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Aaron Ramsey, who should start against Sporting, with Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil being rested.
While attack is laden with options for Emery, it is defence that is posing a fair few problems. Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac are both injured for the clash against Sporting, meaning Emery will be forced to play an unfamiliar player in the left-back slot again. Stephan Lichtsteiner was the man to play there during the weekend, and could well be the player to do so again.
Meanwhile, Sokratis has returned from his injury, and could well start the game for Arsenal in place of Shkodran Mustafi, who will get a well deserved rest. However, in the last game against Qarabag, Emery had opted to play a back three, something he ruled out for Thursday’s clash while speaking in his pre-match press conference.
“[Against Sporting] is not the best for us because our composition with the players tomorrow I think we are going to continue tactically how usually we are doing but for the next matches it could be a possibility to do that.”
Petr Cech might have been the option considering he returned to training about 10 days ago, but the veteran goalkeeper has been left back home as he battles to regain match fitness. Hence, Bernd Leno could continue to keep his place in the Arsenal starting lineup.
In defence, Unai Emery has included Carl Jenkinson in the squad, but could it mean Hector Bellerin gets a rest? Most likely it would be the Spaniard who would start as the right-back for Arsenal.
As iterated earlier, Sokratis should come in the place of the overworked Mustafi at the heart of the Arsenal defence, with Rob Holding being his partner. The left-back slot is the biggest problem for Emery right now, with Monreal, Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all sidelined. As a result, Lichtsteiner should start on the left side of the defence again.
Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Guendouzi could come in the side and replace Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka in central midfield. Upfront, Ramsey and Aubameyang should be joined by Danny Welbeck, who is expected to start on the left side of the attack in place of Alex Iwobi, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the opposite flank.