On Thursday, Arsenal will begin their Europa League knockout round campaign by travelling to Lisbon to face a team that might pose a challenge to the Gunners despite currently holding the fourth-place position in the Liga Portugal. In their two Champions League group stage encounters with Tottenham, Ruben Amorim’s team startled one-half of north London, earning four points. They also triumphed admirably away at Midtjylland to secure their place in the round of 16.
Before Christmas, Mikel Arteta’s team finished first in their Europa League group, surpassing PSV Eindhoven, after winning five of their six group stage games. They will be many people’s favourites to win this match since they are currently leading the Premier League, but will their manager be tempted to deplete his team’s strength in order to concentrate on their domestic rivalry with Manchester City?
Sporting: Although attention will undoubtedly be drawn to Arsenal’s domestic concerns, Amorim cannot afford to lose sight of league play given that Sporting will fight valiantly to finish in the top three in Liga and earn a spot in the Champions League for the next season. Due to a sluggish start to the season, after winning six of their past seven games, there is still a five-point deficit to Braga in third place before a matchup with Boavista this coming weekend.
Sporting’s four previous encounters with Arsenal have resulted in zero goals for either team, but this time around, they will at least have an insider in the shape of Hector Bellerin, a former right defender for the Gunners who is sure to get a warm welcome at the Emirates Stadium next week.
Arsenal: Arteta, who will undoubtedly not risk with the health of his star attacker, welcomed Gabriel Jesus’ return to full training on Wednesday. Arsenal’s 3-2 victory against Bournemouth on Saturday came at the expense of Leandro Trossard, who sustained a groyne injury when racing back in the first half, creating serious problems for the attack. Gabriel Martinelli might start up front for the Gunners since Eddie Nketiah’s ankle injury was severe enough to necessitate him to wear a protective boot.
While Arteta is not one to rotate his team much, Matt Turner is one of the peripheral players who might play on Thursday. It also seems probable that Thomas Partey will be rested. Although Jakub Kiwior, who was acquired from Spezia in January, is expected to make his debut, Granit Xhaka, who was rested for the Premier League victory on Saturday, may start.
For Arsenal, who would understand if attention were to shift to Sunday’s trip to Fulham, this may end up being quite the banana peel. Pick: Sporting 2 to 1 Arsenal
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