Arsenal and Sporting Lisbon will meet again at the Emirates on Thursday for the pivotal match after a wild and unpredictable 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 contest.
Last week’s first leg at the Estadio Jose Alvalade saw Arsenal and Sporting engaged in a game marred by sloppy goals and poor set-piece defending.
While the result was undoubtedly better for the Gunners, it should not define their season, given their strong performance in the Premier League. They are currently five points clear at the top of the table, having secured a convincing 3-0 victory against Fulham over the weekend.
They are in a strong position to make their long-awaited return to the Champions League. They still have a shot at achieving an unprecedented Premier League and Europa League double.
However, they must improve their performance in Europa League knockout home games, as they have failed to win in their last three attempts.
Arsenal Form (All Competition): W W W D W
Sporting boss, Ruben Amorim, was left frustrated by Paulinho’s poor miss in their previous game, but he remained optimistic that his team’s luck was about to change.
True to his word, Sporting secured a comfortable victory over Boavista in the Primeira Liga, thanks to goals from Nuno Santos and an own goal from Salvador Agra, with Paulinho sealing the win in injury time. However, despite the success, Sporting still trails 15 points behind Benfica in the league rankings.
Sporting will now shift their focus to the Europa League, aiming to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2017-18 season. The Lions will confidently travel to North London, having enjoyed a seven-game unbeaten run across all competitions.
Furthermore, it has been ten games since Sporting failed to score a goal, highlighting their attacking prowess.
Sporting Lisbon Form (All Competition): W W W D W
Unfortunately, Arsenal’s injury woes continue to mount as Eddie Nketiah struggles with an ankle injury that may see him miss games until after the international break.
Moreover, Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny is still out for the long term after undergoing knee surgery.
Sporting will be without Morita and Sebastian Coates for their upcoming Europa League clash against Arsenal. Both players have accumulated three bookings in the competition and will serve a suspension.
However, Manuel Ugarte will return from his rest and is expected to replace Morita in the midfield.
Meanwhile, Hector Bellerin is set to miss the game against his former club due to a knee injury.
Their first-choice goalkeeper, Antonio Adan, is expected to recover from a muscle problem that kept him out of their recent league win over Boavista.
Arsenal’s predicted starting lineup:
Turner; Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Jorginho, Partey, Vieira; Nelson, Trossard, Smith Rowe
Sporting Lisbon’s predicted starting lineup:
Adan; St. Juste, Inacio, Reis; Esgaio, Ugarte, Goncalves, Santos; Edwards, Paulinho, Trincao
Head to Head
In the previous encounters between Sporting and Arsenal, the two teams have faced each other on five occasions, with three of those meetings taking place in the Europa League.
Despite Sporting’s formidable reputation, it has been Arsenal who has had the upper hand, remaining unbeaten in all five games.
The Gunners have registered two victories over Sporting and drawn the remaining three matches.
Time, Date & Venue
Date: Thursday, March 16
Time: 08:00 pm, GMT
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London
Sporting will have to contend with the absence of key players in Morita and Coates, which may hinder their attacking prowess.
Despite their impressive form in the league, the Portuguese side may struggle to break down a resilient Arsenal defense, especially with the home advantage firmly in the Gunners’ favor.