Arsenal are ready to lock horns with Sporting Lisbon in a crucial clash of their Europa League group, as both teams looking to upstage the other for the top spot.
Sporting Lisbon welcome Arsenal as their next opponents in the Europa League. Sporting and Arsenal, both have so far collected all six points from their first two group games, beating the likes of Qarabag and Vorskla. Sporting only trail Arsenal in the second spot on goal difference. However, a win against the Gunners at home will ensure they come into the next game at the Emirates in the top spot.
Sporting needed late goals from Fredy Montero and Jovane Cabral to secure the three points against Vorskla although they were quite resounding in their performance against Qarabag in the first game. The Portuguese giants, domestically are doing decently, but in the Europa League, where they have been a regular participant, they are in a good vein of form.
Arsenal, like Sporting, have six points from the first two games, but the Gunners have rather performed prolifically so far in the competition with seven goals to their name already. Arsenal head into this game at the back of a resounding win over Leicester City in the Premier League which was also their tenth in a row in all competitions.
However, while Arsenal can take confidence from their recent form, their history playing games in Portugal tells a different story altogether. The Gunners are winless in their last five games here, losing three. Although considering Arsenal’s form in the Europa League and other competitions, one can definitely expect a competitive match from both teams vying for the top spot in this group.
Team News & Tactics
Sporting Lisbon will come into the Arsenal tie with most of their players available for selection although some key stars are still a doubt. Striker Bas Dost, Raphinha and Jeremy Mathieu are all expected to come into the side basis of a late fitness test. Mathieu only returned to training at the start of the week while Dost and Raphinha are carrying knocks.
Coach Jose Poseiro named Romain Salin and Bruno Cesar on the bench during Sporting’s win over Loures over the weekend, meaning they could be primed to start the game against Arsenal. Another player who could start is Fredy Montero, who could get the nod to start through the middle if Dost misses out.
Unai Emery will change his side that defeated Leicester over the weekend. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Aaron Ramsey and Matteo Guendouzi are all expected to come into the side, and Danny Welbeck who might get the nod over Alex Iwobi on the left side.
On the injury front, among the current first teamers, Petr Cech is closing in on a return, and in case he is available, Emery could play him in goal. Sokratis is the other player who has been doubtful since the International break, might also be involved. Emery could, however, make tweaks where the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil could start from the bench.
The biggest concern for Emery would be the left back position where Stephan Lichtsteiner started in that spot against Leicester City. As it stands, Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac remain injured and unavailable. Emery could stick with Lichtsteiner or possibly Ainsley Maitland-Niles who returned to full training during the International break.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Sokratis, Lichtsteiner; Guendouzi, Elneny; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Welbeck; Aubameyang
- It will be the first meeting between Sporting CP and Arsenal since 1969-70.
- Arsenal have never beaten a Portuguese side away from home, losing on their last three visits.
- Sporting are on their best run in the Europa League since October 2011, winning their last three games.
- Unai Emery has lost only once in the last 20 group games as a manager in the Europa League.
- There have been six different scorers for Arsenal so far in the Europa League, more than any other side.
Player to Watch
Ramsey has endured a difficult time with his contract situation, but those problems have not affected his gameplay. Against Fulham, before the International break, the Welshman came off the bench to score and assist as Arsenal won 5-1. But he was on the bench again this weekend against Leicester, possibly to play a whole game during midweek.
Ramsey has a task at hand, to convince Emery that he could be the best option in the No.10 role, as now he has the challenge to upstage Mesut Ozil who was sensational against Leicester. Ramsey has to prove that he is the star man at Arsenal with a glowing performance against Sporting Lisbon and help Arsenal secure a first-ever victory in Portugal.
Sporting 1-2 Arsenal
History might not back our prediction, for Arsenal have never won a game in Portugal, but their current form under Emery will. Arsenal have been on a 10-game winning streak heading into this tie, and are oozing with confidence and form, something that would be crucial enough for the Gunners to get all three points and build momentum in their group.
Sporting are in a good run of form themselves, but they might come short against the Gunners. Arsenal’s defence is still unconvincing, as there are chances the Gunners could let a goal or two in. However, Arsenal’s attack, which has seen six different scorers so far in the Europa League will come through the game with their goals to beat Sporting Lisbon.