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

Sports Mole provides predicted lineups, team news and a full match preview of Arsenal's trip to Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League.

Sporting Lisbon and Arsenal have a place in the knockout round of the Europa League in sight as they prepare to lock horns at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Both sides have collected six points from six in Group E, meaning that Thursday's victors will all but secure a place in the last 32 of the competition.

Sporting Lisbon

Bas Dost in action for Sporting Lisbon on November 22, 2017© Reuters

Sporting were made to work hard for victory at Vorskla Poltava in their most recent European outing, requiring goals in the final stages of the game from Fredy Montero and Jovane Cabral to dodge an upset.

That slender win came two weeks on from a more resounding 2-0 home victory over Azerbaijani champions Qarabag, with Cabral again registering on the night, ensuring that the Lions remain in a strong position as we approach the midway point of the group stage.

The Portuguese giants are regular participants in the Europa League, having contested in seven of the previous nine instalments, but not since 2011-12 have they managed to make it to the latter stages.

Defeat to Athletic Bilbao brought Sporting's campaign to an end at the semi-finals on that occasion, while more recently they went down 2-1 on aggregate to Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals last season - the Spanish side also knocking out Arsenal en route to lifting the trophy.

Jose Peseiro's men have a good European record on home soil, winning their last three matches at the Estadio Jose Alvalade without conceding, and going further back it is just two defeats in 28 matches here.

Sporting also have a perfect home record against English sides in the Europa League, beating Everton 3-0 in the round of 32 eight years ago and seeing off Manchester City in the last 16 six years ago.

Overall, the Lions' 21 matches against English opposition has yielded nine wins, nine defeats and three draws, with seven of those victories coming on their own patch - including those only previous Europa clashes against Premier League teams.

Recent form in Europa League: WW
Recent form (all competitions): WLWWLW


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

Arsenal head into this third Group F outing as the Europa League's joint-top scorers, alongside Bayer Leverkusen, boasting seven goals from their wins over Vorskla and Qarabag.

The Gunners had to dig deep for their eventual 4-2 victory over Ukrainian minnows Vorskla, which they followed up with a 3-0 win in Azerbaijan earlier this month through goals from Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Emile Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi.

Unai Emery, a three-time winner of this competition with former club Sevilla, has stuck to his word by naming fairly strong starting lineups for both matches, seeing this as a realistic opportunity to add some silverware to the collection.

Going all the way would also mean a return to the Champions League for Arsenal after a couple of years away, although they also remain in a strong position to qualify for the competition via the more traditional route of a top-four finish in the Premier League.

That is thanks to seven wins on the spin in the top flight, culminating in Monday night's well-earned 3-1 victory over Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium when playing some sublime football.

All in all it is now 10 successive victories for the North London outfit, including those triumphs over Vorskla and Qarabag, and an 11th on the spin would give Emery the chance to play a second-string side for the remaining two Group F outings.

Arsenal have not won on five previous trips to Portugal, however, losing three of those and scoring just twice. Interestingly, those two goals came via a couple of Campbells - Sol against Porto in 2009-10 and Kevin in 1991-92.

Recent form in Europa League: WW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW

Team News

Aaron Ramsey in action for Arsenal on September 15, 2018© Reuters

Petr Cech and Sokratis are both close to returning to first-team action following a spell on the sidelines, with the latter in line to come back into the side on Thursday.

Emery is expected to rotate slightly from the win over Leicester on Monday, meaning that second-half subs Aaron Ramsey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Guendouzi could all start in Portugal.

Smith Rowe is another pushing for a recall after impressing in the win over Qarabag earlier this month, while Danny Welbeck has also started both previous Group F matches and should continue that run here.

In terms of the hosts, Peseiro will hope to have Jeremy Mathieu back involved after welcoming the French defender back to training at the start of the week.

Forwards Bas Dost and Raphinha are both carrying knocks, meanwhile, and will be monitored right up until the day of the game, but Montero is likely to get the nod through the middle.

Romain Salin and Bruno Cesar were both named among the subs for Sporting's cup win over Loures and are expected to be in contention for a starting spot.

Sporting Lisbon possible starting lineup:
Salin; Gaspar, Coates, Mathieu, Jefferson; Nani, Fernandes, Gudelj, Acuna, Mane; Montero

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Sokratis, Lichsteiner; Elneny, Guendouzi; Smith Rowe, Ramsey, Welbeck; Aubameyang

Head To Head

Sporting and Arsenal have never previously met in a UEFA competition, although they did come face to face in a 1969-70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup second round tie.

The Gunners prevailed 3-0 on aggregate on that occasion, netting all three of their goals at Highbury on their way to lifting the trophy.

Arsenal's most recent trip to Portugal came in the 2009-10 Champions League when going down 2-0 to Braga - Matheus scoring both goals to stun Arsene Wenger's men.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Sporting Lisbon 1-1 Arsenal

Sporting are not in the best of form, having lost two of their last three league games to find themselves four points adrift of champions Benfica, whereas the Gunners have jumped over every hurdle placed in front of them over the past couple of months. The Lions are tough to beat at their home ground, however, and this could well be the match that sees Arsenal's perfect streak come to an end.

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

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