Wojciech Szczsny of Juventus’ respiratory problems made headlines during Sporting Lisbon’s 1-0 defeat in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League (UEL) quarterfinals. The elimination of the away goals rule provides the home team a chance to advance to the UEL semifinals for for the second time ever. Coach Rben Amorim assured supporters that “the margin is so slim and we must have faith” following the defeat in Turin.
Sporting lost position on qualifying for Europe when their Sunday league encounter against Arouca ended in a 1-1 draw, thus winning this game is crucial. However, considering that the Lions have lost each of their last six two legged meetings against Italian teams and have lost their last four home European games (D2, L2), home supporters would not be very optimistic.
After losing 1-0 to Sassuolo on Sunday ahead of a trio of crucial games in three distinct tournaments (UEL, Serie A, and Coppa Italia) that might determine the course of their season, Juventus lost ground in their pursuit of the European spots as well. They should feel optimistic after the first leg victory made it four straight triumphs in Europe and the first clean sheet since the 2016–17 Champions League season, although coach Massimiliano Allegri noted “a few mistakes” and several areas where “the lads can improve” after that leg.
These enhancements are necessary for The Old Lady to stabilize their away form, which has resulted in three losses over five competitive visits (W2), including two consecutive defeats. Since four of those victories were decided by a solitary goal, a third close contest cannot be ruled out.
Sporting manager Amorim refused to place the blame for the first leg loss on Antonio Adán, who now has five goals allowed in two head to head matches. Duan Vlahovi, whose past two UEL goal involvements (G1, A1) have come in away Juve victories, could put him to the test once more.
A more recognizable starting lineup will take the field on Thursday after Ruben Amorim made various adjustments over the weekend that included dropping Goncalo Inacio and Hidemasa Morita to the bench.
Marcus Edwards, a highly regarded winger, missed out due to illness, and Jeremiah St. Juste was unable to play because of an injury, but both players hope to play in the second leg.
Despite the fact that Morita outperformed Manuel Ugarte last week in Turin when filling in for the Uruguayan while he was suspended, Morita may end up starting in center midfield against Arouca.
Paulinho, Daniel Braganca, and Jovane Cabral are still out for Sporting, and if St. Juste is unable to recover in time, Ousmane Diomande will likely start in their place.
Wojciech Szczesny, the starting goalkeeper for Juventus, was forced to leave the game during the first leg due to chest pain, and regular cup keeper Mattia Perin filled in for him. It is unclear whether or not he will be used again, as Sassuolo defeated Juventus after the game.
Former Porto defender Alex Sandro is back at the defense after serving a Serie A suspension, but Max Allegri will continue to trust Federico Gatti. Both Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa are available for selection after just overcoming their most recent injury setbacks.
Angel Di Maria, who previously played for Sporting’s bitter rivals Benfica and was Ruben Amorim’s teammate from 2007 to 2010, should come back to assume his place in the Bianconeri’s front line.
Sporting Lisbon possible starting lineup
Adan, Inacio, Coates, Diomande, Esgaio, Goncalves, Morita, Reis, Edwards, Chermiti and Trincao.
Juventus possible starting lineup
Szczesny, Gatti, Bremer, Danilo, Cuadrado, Fagioli, Locatelli, Rabiot, Kostic, Di Maria and Vlahovic.
We predict: Sporting Lisbon 1-1 Juventus (Juventus prevail 2-1 overall)
Juventus can frustrate a Sporting team that has not recreated its title winning form from last season and is a touch more vulnerable these days thanks to the experience of Allegri and his expensively assembled cast of underachievers.
Juve will be happy to play the spoiler and concentrate their efforts on scoring on the break or in a set-piece situation as a draw would advance them to the final four.