Verdict: Over 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 10/11
Now enjoying a 10 match winning run across all competitions, Unai Emery’s Arsenal side will travel to Estádio José Alvalade on Thursday night for their third Europa League outing.
Starting with the hosts, while they may have finished just three points adrift from reclaiming their spot in the Champions League last season, it has been a sluggish start for Sporting Lisbon. Losing two of their las three Primeira outings, José Peseiro’s currently sees his side sat down in fifth. As for their Europa League form, while the Green and Whites should prove to be Arsenal’s toughest test to date in Europe, and have now picked up wins in their opening two games, there have been some worrying signs for Peseiro. 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. After a string off-field issues last season that saw a number of their biggest stars leave the Estádio José Alvalade, Lisbon will be desperate to keep hold of their recent record in Europe. Sporting have won each of their last three games in the Europa League, their best run in the competition since October 2011.
Forwards Bas Dost and Raphinha are both carrying knocks and are likely to face a late fitness test.
Peseiro will hope to have Jeremy Mathieu back involved after welcoming the French defender back to training at the start of the week.
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.
As for the visitors, while Arsenal may have lost their opening two Premier League games under Unai Emery, the Gunners have shown serious signs of improvement and are adapting well to life under the former PSG boss. Battling back to pick up a 3-1 win over Leicester on Monday night, the Reds have now won their last 10 matches on the bounce across all competitions, a run that stems back to the middle of August. Holding the second best-attacking stats in the Premier League, Emery’s men have carried on their impressive goalscoring form in Europe. Scoring seven times in their opening two Europa League matches, one man to watch for Emery’s side will be their leading goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Enjoying an incredibly bright start to the season, along with scoring a brace against the Foxes on Monday night, the Gabon international now has four in his last two for the Gunners.
Unai Emery has opted to rotate his squad in this competition with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette each starting a game to date.
Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac both missed Monday’s win over Leicester with tight hamstrings, as did Sokratis, although the Greece international is expected to be in contention to return on Thursday night.
Petr Cech is edging closer to his return from a hamstring problem but as of Monday, was still training away from the group.
Key Factors to Consider
- This will be the first meeting between Sporting CP and Arsenal since 1969-70, when they met in the second round of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Sporting held Arsenal to a goalless draw in Lisbon, but were beaten 0-3 at Highbury.
- Arsenal have never beaten a Portuguese side away from home (D3 L3), losing each of their last three.
- Sporting have won each of their last three games in the Europa League, their best run in the competition since October 2011.
- Unai Emery has only lost one of his 20 Group Stage games in the Europa League (W11 D8), with those games coming while in charge of Valencia, Sevilla and now Arsenal.
- Six different players have scored for Arsenal in the Europa League this season, more than any other side (Aubameyang, Ozil, Guendouzi, Smith-Rowe, Sokratis and Welbeck).
While Arsenal do have a tendency to struggle on their trips to Portugal, the mood is at an all-time high around Arsenal and they should be confident of carrying on their unbeaten record. Given both sides have now scored two or more goals in each of their Europa League outings and neither side have recorded a clean sheet in their last five matches combined, we’re backing over 2.5 goals on Thursday night.
Verdict: Over 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 10/11
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