Following Arsenal’s weekend 3-0 thrashing of Fulham, which kept them at top the Premier League standings, focus will soon return to the European Europa League (UEL). With a 2-2 draw in Lisbon last week, the Gunners’ round of 16 matchup with Sporting Lisbon is still in doubt. But, with seven victories from nine home matches against Portuguese clubs in European play (D1, L1), Arsenal will be hoping to swing the outcome in their favor at the Emirates.
The fact that Mikel Arteta’s team has triumphed in five of their last seven UEFA matches in which they drew the away leg first gives Arsenal even more confidence that they can win a fourth straight UEL Round of 16 match. Despite having a winning record after a scoreless first leg, Arteta will likely be frustrated that his team does not have the advantage. While his team appeared disjointed in Lisbon due to Arteta’s six lineup changes, anticipate a full strength Arsenal to start this match.
Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Jesus were both declared out of the running for Sunday’s victory over Fulham by Arteta, a great believer in mind games, but both attackers were finally given the go-ahead, with the latter making his first appearance since the World Cup off the bench.
While Mohamed Elneny is still out permanently after having knee surgery, there are concerns that Eddie Nketiah’s ankle issue will keep him out till after the international break.
Fabio Vieira, who Arteta praised as Arsenal’s most threatening player in the first leg, should be recalled for this match. Kieran Tierney, Jorginho, Emile Smith Rowe, and Matt Turner, who had some iffy moments in the first game, are also expected to start.
Likewise for Sporting, Amorim will have to manage without two players who received third cautions of the European season in Morita and Sebastian Coates, who will miss this match through suspension.
On the plus side, Santos may continue to play left wing back now that Manuel Ugarte has returned from his own suspension and should be a direct replacement for Morita in the engine room. Matheus Reis may also be brought in to fill in for Coates in a central position.
Hector Bellerin, a former player for Arsenal, will ostensibly miss the match at the Emirates because of a knee injury. Bellerin is one of two absentees for the visitors, along with Daniel Braganca. However, first-choice goalkeeper Antonio Adan is anticipated to recover from the muscle issue that kept him out of the victory over Boavista.
Turner, Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Jorginho, Partey, Vieira; Nelson, Trossard, and Smith Rowe might be Arsenal’s starting lineup.
Adan, St. Juste, Inacio, Reis, Esgaio, Ugarte, Goncalves, Santos, Edwards, Paulinho, and Trincao could all make the Sporting Lisbon starting lineup.
Arsenal 2-1 Sporting Lisbon. (Arsenal triumphs 4-3 overall.)
The Spaniard’s team are now giving up too many easy goals, as Arteta hinted after the first leg, and a reorganized defense may not have much luck against a lethal Sporting frontline.
Yet, Sporting’s offensive efforts may go in vain against an Arsenal team that is the master of overcoming hardship because Morita and Coates are out. Thus, we are picking the Gunners to secure their spot in the round of eight.