We return to Europa League action on Thursday evening when we take on Sporting CP at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, hoping to extend our unbeaten record against the Portuguese giants to a fifth game.
We’ve yet to lose or concede a goal in our previous four meetings, however this Sporting side is one that has already beaten Tottenham Hotspur at home this season, and have history on their side having progressed from each of their previous six ties against English opposition in the knockout stages of this particular competition.
Both teams enter this game on fine runs of form; we will be looking for a fifth-straight win while Sporting - now boasting a certain Hector Bellerin in their ranks - are unbeaten in their last eight matches, including an eye-opening 5-1 aggregate win over FC Midtjylland in the Europa League playoff round last month.
Sporting’s sales stall rejuvenation
A raft of departures throughout the season has meant that manager Ruben Amorin has been trying to rebuild a former championship-winning side while still trying to compete domestically and on the European stage, but understandably things have been tricky.
A poor start saw them win just once in their first four league games, and they currently sit in fourth place behind runaway leaders and city rivals Benfica, as well as Porto and Braga. They have though won six of their last seven league games to build up some momentum, with their last defeat coming in January’s League Cup final to Porto.
Their European form has been more promising. They beat Tottenham and Eintracht Frankfurt in their opening two Champions League group games but only scraped into the Europa League in the last minute of the final group game after results elsewhere went their way. After that reprieve, Sporting knocked out Midtjylland to set up this clash after an impressive 4-0 second-leg win in Denmark.
What the managers say
Arteta: "To win, 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.
"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." - read every word from Mikel's pre-match press conference
Amorim: “We know Arsenal's style well. We know the spirit that the team has. Our team has improved since the beginning of the season. We live a good moment. We are prepared for the best Arsenal. I
“Beating a team like Arsenal shows us that anything is possible. We would go in another way for the following games. Now we have to start well against Arsenal and want to win. I don't know if it's the best moment to play against Arsenal, but it's a good moment. We have a plan, we want to win, we are excited and we are prepared."
Gabriel Jesus has returned to first-team training but it remains to be seen if he'll be fit enough to play a part in this game, however Leandro Trossard and Eddie Nketiah will be missing for this game.
Mohamed Elneny is our only long-term injury victim with a knee issue.
Sporting have virtually a fully-fit squad to select from, with only long-term ACL victim Daniel Braganca sidelined, although key midfielder Manuel Ugarte will be missing through suspension after picking up to many bookings this campaign.
Amorim rested five of his players during Saturday’s 1-0 win against Portimonense, with Jeremiah St. Juste, Matheus Reis, Bellerin, Francisco Trincao and Paulinho all benched, with the latter grabbing the only goal of the game when introduced.
Facts and stats
We are unbeaten in six previous meetings with Portuguese opponents in the Europa League (W3 D3), including eliminating Benfica in the knockout stages in 2020/21, when both legs were played at neutral venues.
We have kept a clean sheet in four of our last five games in the Europa League, although each of the last five goals we have conceded in the competition have come in away games.
Marcus Edwards, Paulinho and Arthur all scored against Tottenham earlier this season – if any of them score against us, they will become only the second player to score against both north London sides in a single European campaign, after Youssef El Arabi for Olympiakos in 2019/20 (excluding qualifying rounds).
Sporting's 27 UEFA fixtures against English clubs have yielded 10 wins and 11 defeats, eight of the victories coming at home including a 2-0 success against Tottenham on matchday 2 of the Champions League.
German lawyer Tobias Stieler is the man in the middle for this game. He has refereed in the Bundesliga since 2012, and has been on the FIFA list since 2014.
From his 25 games across all competitions this season, he has shown 71 yellow cards but just one red. In the six matches he has officiated involving Engish teams in European competitions over the past few years, they have won all six.
- Referee: Tobias Stieler (GER)
- Assistant referee 1: Christian Gittelmann (GER)
- Assistant referee 2: Mark Borsch (GER)
- Fourth official: Robert Schröder (GER)
- VAR: Bastian Dankert (GER)
- Assistant VAR: Soren Storks (GER)
Previous visits to Portugal
We have played Sporting on their own patch twice - the first came in the 1969/70 season when we drew 0-0 during our successful Fairs Cup run, and then in 2018 a Danny Welbeck strike saw us claim a 1-0 win during the Europa League group stage.
That is the only time we have left Portugal with a victory, having drawn three and lost three of our other six trips there. We were defeated 3-1 by Sporting’s Lisbon rivals Benfica in the European Cup in 1990/91, before we faced Porto in three out of four straight seasons in the late 2000s, claiming a goalless draw before successive 2-0 and 2-1 defeats.
In 2010 we lost to Braga 2-0, before winning at the Estadio Jose Alvalade eight years later. Our most recent encounter in the country was a 1-1 draw against Vitoria SC in the 2019/20 Europa League group stage, when we were denied victory via a last-minute equaliser.
Tune in from 4.45pm (UK time) for the perfect pre-match build-up for any Gooner, as Nick Bright and Adrian Clarke will be live from Emirates Stadium to get you in the mood for the game.
They'll tell you all you need to know about our opponents, and pick out who could make the difference for both sides on the night, while Frimmy will be in Lisbon to bring a flavour of the atmosphere in the Portuguese capital.
There will also be a look back at Saturday's epic encounter with Bournemouth and the chance to relive the excitement of our 97th-minute win one more time, before Max Jones and Jeremie Aliadiere provide live commentary from kick-off - so make sure you don't miss it!
Swot up on Sporting
To find out everything you need to about Sporting before kick-off, including their European pedigree, their recent renaissance into title contenders, who their star players are and how they have got on this season, read our in-depth guide on our opponents.
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