Mikel Arteta admitted that as soon as the Europa League round of 16 draw was made, he sought out Fabio Vieira to find out more about Sporting CP.
Our Portuguese midfielder regularly plied his trade against the Lions in the Primeira Liga during his time at Porto before he upped sticks to north London last summer, and saw their return to being championship challengers under the stewardship of current boss Ruben Amorim.
That, combined with the fact that Fabio has also played with some of their current squad at international under-21 level means that Mikel was keen to hear what the midfielder thought of our opponents, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
When asked if he’d had a conversation with Fabio, Mikel said: “That was the first thing that we did because it’s great to have the knowledge and the understanding of someone from the country, who knows the manager and has [international] teammates. It’s always very useful and he talked really highly.
“The variety, options and the change in formations that they can do, and within that shape as well, the profile of players especially the wing-backs change their behaviours. We know that, and until we have the line-ups, we will have a few question marks as we try to understand what they will do.
“To win tomorrow, we will have to be at our best and play really well, compete really well, understand the game and manage the game really well. Here it is easy, but we have to do it on that pitch tomorrow night.”
One player who the boss won’t have to study is Hector Bellerin, who is currently on loan at Sporting from Barcelona, whom he departed to from us last summer.
Having played alongside and managed the right-back during his 11-year association with the club, Arteta is looking forward to being reunited with Hector once again.
“I absolutely love the person and the player,” he said. “He was a really important player for our club, one who left something beyond just his career but as a person at our football club.
“It will be great to see him tomorrow, and I’m sure the boys and the staff will be really happy to see him again.”
Hear everything from the press conference, or do your own research on our opponents.
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