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Nov 8, 2018 at 8pm UK at ​Emirates Stadium (London)
Sporting Lisbon

Mathieu (87')

Preview: Arsenal vs. Sporting Lisbon - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews the Europa League clash between Arsenal and Sporting Lisbon, including team news, predictions and head-to-head records.

Arsenal have a place in the last 32 of the Europa League firmly in their sights as they prepare to welcome Sporting Lisbon to the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners have three wins from three in Group E and will advance through with three more points against the Portuguese side on Thursday night.


Danny Welbeck takes a shot during the Europa League group game between Sporting Lisbon and Arsenal on October 25, 2018© Reuters

Unai Emery's side have made light work of what is just their second ever Europa League campaign, having opened up with a 4-2 home win over Vorskla Poltava before beating Qarabag 3-0 and Sporting 1-0 on their travels.

The trip to Lisbon two weeks ago was a pivotal match in Group E, with Danny Welbeck's late strike maintaining Arsenal's impressive winning run and leaving them on the brink of a place in the knockout rounds for a second successive year.

A point could be enough for the Premier League side this week should Vorskla, six points worse off, lose at home to pointless Qarabag in the other group match taking place on Thursday.

Fourteen games without defeat has created a far more positive vibe around the Emirates Stadium compared to recent years, and that is almost entirely thanks to the work of Emery in his first few months at the helm.

The Gunners may have drawn two of their last three, following a run of 11 successive victories, but there were more positives than negatives to come out of Saturday's 1-1 draw with Liverpool, which leaves the North London outfit just outside the Premier League's top four.

It remains to be seen what exactly equates to a successful campaign for Emery in his first season in charge, but bettering last term's semi-final finish under Arsene Wenger in this competition will be high on the agenda. As a three-time winner of the Europa League, Emery knows exactly what it takes to go all the way.

Arsenal also made a perfect start to their European campaign 12 months ago, only to draw 0-0 with Red Star Belgrade at the Emirates Stadium on matchday four to halt their momentum somewhat.

That was one of only two home draws in this competition, with their record standing at won five and lost one - that solitary defeat coming against Swedish side Ostersunds FK in last season's round of 32.

Twenty-two goals have been scored across those eight matches, though eight have been conceded and they have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five home European matches.

Recent form in Europa League: WWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWDWD

Sporting Lisbon

Marcos Acuna and Stephan Lichtsteiner in action during the Europa League group game between Sporting Lisbon and Arsenal on October 25, 2018© Reuters

Sporting are still favourites to progress through in second place, despite their home loss to Arsenal two weeks ago, as they have a three-point advantage over Vorskla at the midway stage.

The Lions picked up a crucial 2-1 victory against the Ukrainian minnows on matchday two, building on a 2-0 victory against Qarabag in their opener, but the gap could be completely closed come the end of play on Thursday.

Taking a point back to Lisbon will be considered a positive outcome by Marcel Keizer, who has seen his side win back-to-back league matches since going down to Arsenal to climb back into title contention.

Third-placed finishers in the Portuguese top flight last season, and third after nine games of the 2018-19 campaign, Sporting's title wait looks as though it will enter its 17th year.

The Lions have plenty of knowhow in the Europa League, though, as they have featured in the competition seven times since its inception in 2009-10 - including five appearances in the group stage - and were semi-finalists six years ago.

More recently than that, Sporting were dumped out at the quarter-finals by eventual winners Atletico Madrid last season after dropping down from the Champions League, with a 2-0 away defeat in the first leg proving too much to overturn.

Sporting's away record in the group stage of this competition is pretty mixed, winning six and losing nine of 16, and they are without a clean sheet in any of their last 30 European away matches since beating FC Zurich on matchday one in 2011-12.

Keizer's side have also kept just two clean sheets in their last nine matches of the current campaign, meaning that they will likely have to breach the Gunners' backline if they are to maintain their advantage over the sides below them in Group E.

Recent form in Europa League: WWL
Recent form (all competitions): LWLWLW

Team News

Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi in action during his side's Premier League clash with Manchester City on August 12, 2018© Reuters

Matteo Guendouzi returns from suspension and is expected to start in defensive midfield, likely alongside in-form teammate Granit Xhaka.

Xhaka may be required at left-back, however, as Sead Kolasinac has only just returned from a month out, though Emery will be keen to get the Bosnian defender into his lineup to avoid disruption elsewhere.

Having started 10 of Arsenal's last 11 games, Rob Holding is expected to continue his run in the heart of defence, with Sokratis Papastathopoulos - a starter in the reverse meeting against Sporting - in line to return.

Elsewhere, Petr Cech is favourite to start in goal ahead of Bernd Leno, having been effectively relegated to appearances in cup competitions.

In terms of the visitors, Rodrigo Battaglia left the field just half-hour into Sunday's 2-1 win over Santa Clara and is therefore considered a major doubt.

Abdoulaye Diaby was also injured at the weekend, potentially forcing Keizer into a tactical rethink for this trip to the English capital, but they do at least have Bas Dost back in their ranks following his return from injury.

Stefan Ristovski, Stefano Sturaro and Raphinha are all still nursing problems of their own, while centre-back Jeremy Mathieu is not 100% fit but should still start.

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Lichsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Guendouzi; Iwobi, Ramsey, Welbeck; Aubameyang

Sporting Lisbon possible starting lineup:
Ribeiro; Gaspar, Coates, Mathieu, Acuna; Gudelj, Petrovic; Nani, Fernandes, Cabral; Dost

Head To Head

Prior to last month's meeting at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, these two clubs had never previously met in UEFA competition.

They did lock horns in a 1969-70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup second-round clash, however, with Arsenal running out 3-0 winners on aggregate en route to lifting the trophy.

Sporting have faced English clubs on 22 occasions, winning nine and losing 10, though they have won just twice in 11 visits to England and are winless in that last six of those.

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We say: Arsenal 2-0 Sporting Lisbon

Arsenal look full on confidence under Emery, who has made clear that he will take the Europa League seriously this season. Changes can be expected from the draw with Liverpool at the weekend, but even the Gunners' back-up players have stepped up when called upon this term and this should be another convincing win.

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Who will win Thursday's Europa League clash between Arsenal and Sporting Lisbon?

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette celebrate Arsenal's opening goal in the win over Everton on September 23, 2018
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